What fat is best for dry sausage?

The classic salami (or any dry sausage) is meat and fat unified through natural fermentation and drying to yield delicious meat candy.

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In the world of salumi and charcuterie, pork is king.  However, the use of pork is forbidden in many religions like Islam and Judaism. This makes most charcuterie and salumi recipes unacceptable to a large part of the world’s population.

During our recent sujuk making experience, we encountered a bit of a dilemma when it came to selecting fat for this wonderful spicy sausage. The use of pork fat was out of the question since we wanted to produce Middle East-appropriate “porkless” sausage.

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We decided to delve into an exploration of the various properties of fat derived from different species, as it relates to dry sausage. Here are our findings, by species:

1. Pork fat – undoubtedly ideal for any dry sausage recipe, has a high melting point and ages wonderfully into that mellow sausage deliciousness that most salumi and charcuterie-lovers know well. Pork back fat is recommended for most dry sausage recipes.

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2. Beef fat – our experience of making beef-only salami was fairly successful, although we can say that the beef fat was not the optimal fat to add to dry sausage. Beef fat tends to oxidize and turn slightly yellow, making the salami look less appealing.  It also does not produce the same nutty aged flavor as pork.

3. Duck fat – when we made duck prosciutto we realized immediately how duck fat will melt at just room temperature. This makes it significantly less desirable for dry sausage, the duck fat is likely to melt away, making the sausage greasy. This was the reason we opted to use pork fat in our duck salami recipe. Poultry fats in general are better suited for cooked sausages, especially emulsion type products like traditional Bologna.

4. Sheep tail fat – This is the ultimate solution for making a true “porkless” salami. Unfortunately, this fat is darned near impossible to buy in the US.  If you can get your hands on sheep tail fat, it is the best for making soudjuk or other  no-pork type of dry salami.

The reason sheep tail fat is hard to find is that only the special Awassi Fat Tail sheep produce this hard and versatile fat.   It has a high melting point and good aging characteristics. It is called the Middle Eastern version of schmalz (chicken fat).

We have not used this fat in any of the recipes that we have tried so far, but we are always searching for new ingredients and this one is quite interesting to us.

We found an excellent blogpost by a notable chef/blogger Jennifer McLagan on sheep tail fat and its versatility.

5. Out of the box solutions: White chocolate – In a recent conversation a  European butcher/charcutier we learned that they have used white chocolate as an animal fat substitute in some venison salami recipes.  They said it took some experimentation, but ended up producing some really unique and delicious results when paired with dried, tart fruit.

Please let us know here or on the UMAi Dry® Forum is you have any other great ideas!