HOW TO MAKE ‘NDUJA
‘Nduja: the spicy, creamy, spreadable salami, is a distinctly Calabrian product, but only certain areas of Calabria. The most famous of these is Vibo Valentia, the home province of my Zia Agnese, who taught me this recipe.
There a many uses for ‘nduja. We eat it on toasted Calabrian bread (crostini), pizza, and semi-matured cheeses, and in frittatas and pasta sauces. Fileja con ‘nduja (a Calabrian handmade pasta) and Zuppa di Fagioli con ‘nduja (a traditional bean soup) are common dishes.
The origin of its odd name stems from the Latin inducere, meaning “to insert.” Etymologically it’s connected with two other salami insaccati: salam dla doja from Piedmont and Andouille from France.
Since the term is likely of French origin, some date the invention of ‘nduja during the Napoleonic period (1806-1815). Others believe it was the Spaniards who introduced it when they brought the peppers to Calabria for the first time. Whatever the true story may be, it’s unclear to us today, hidden in the tales of the older generation and conflicting official histories.
- 1 kg pork meat (I use guanciale=pork cheek)
- 1 kg pork fat
- 1 kg peperoncino mixture (sweet and hot paprika mixed with spicy polpa di peperoncino, to taste) – chilli flakes would be the best choice.
- 90 g salt (to make the mixture soft and moistened)
- ¼ L red wine (to make the mixture moist and soft) – The old and original recipe doesn’t require wine but I like to add to give flavour and rinse the containers.
- 4 synthetic collagen soppressata casings
- 9×30 cm diameter collagen casing (700/800 grams per casing) or salted, naturally preserved casings
Tools and equipment
- Sausage grinder
- Extra-large bin for mixing
Making the ‘nduja
- Thoroughly soak intestines with cold water for 5/10 minutes. Or, if using salted natural casings:
- Rinse salt from casings with fresh water
- Soften by soaking in freshwater at room temperature 15 minutes to one hour
- Take casings to stuffing table. Place in a bath of freshwater
- Pre-flush the casing by blowing air into the casings and allow it to run through. This also facilitates getting the casing onto the filling horn and moving it smoothly during the filling process
- Slice meat and fat into strips small enough to run through the grinder
- Grind meat and fat twice, to give it a creamy, spreadable texture
- Make pepperoncino mixture by combining hot and sweet paprika and the spicy polpa di peperoncino (you may find this at some gourmet Italian butcher), to taste
- Thoroughly knead/combine meat, fat and pepperoncino. Add wine and continue to mix until evenly distributed in the mixture.
- Let rest for half-hour
- Get ready to stuff ‘nduja: lubricate horn with a wet cloth, slide on the casing; pull a small amount out to and tie in a knot.
- Begin stuffing the casing:
- Hold the casing loosely at the tied end of the casing with one hand and let the ‘nduja feed into the casing as you turn the crank with your other hand.
- Hold with one hand the casing, and with the other hand press to distribute equally the stuffing inside the casing. The casing will slide itself out as you feed the grinder. Go slowly enough to control the process, so the casings are stuffed evenly.
- Air pockets will occasionally form: use a needle to release excess air.
- Press and massage casings as you fill them. The finished ‘nduja should have the consistency of an orange.
- You may need to keep refilling the stuffer Poking holes to eliminate the excess of air. Press it down, squeeze and massage to make it dense and hard as an orange to give you an idea. Keep doing until you finish your mixture.
- Tie and hang the ‘nduja in a cantina of C° 10-15
- Usually, cantinas have a little window, open it up in the morning until evening, but avoid any direct flow to the salami. This may cause a fast-drying casing and meat inside could not drying/aging properly and the risk is to spoil the product.
Curing and smoking the ‘nduja
- On the first day after making the ‘nduja, smoke the meat. In a small aluminum, pan torch up some wood chips and let them smoke up inside the room. Keep your doors closed to avoid any leak inside you home. (in my family, back home, we used to select the small branches of olives tree or Heath or oak because even this was important to flavour the salami)
- Smoke once per day for the first week. After that reduce the frequency to once every ten days. Keep opening and close the window as I said above for 2 weeks. Airflow is important. First, it pulls moisture off the surface of what you’re dry-curing. Second, it helps to keep bad mould (anything that’s not white, for our purposes) at bay by reducing the amount of damp air surrounding your meat
- Just note, smoking the meat is a very old practice and you are not obligated to do it if you don’t want or you don’t have a proper space for it. Moreover, if you don’t have a Cantina, you may create an artificial one inside your refrigerator, hanging at the lower level the nduja, having the care to wet every day the casing for the first week and rotate by changing the spot. Be careful this process is faster (half of the time, because airflow is continuos inside the refrigerator). So it will take less time and obviously it won’t be the same of ageing nduja in a cantina.
- I age my ‘nduja around six weeks for every kg. So if I make 3 kg it would likely take a little more than 18 weeks. The nduja is ready when a white mould starts to form outside the casing and it turns very dark red in colour.