“Marco, oggi facciamo salsicce per il pranzo,” Nonna said one morning as I finished my breakfast.
I thought, “Wow! We are making sausages. I have never made sausages before. Where is the sausage machine?”
But, alas, I was mistaken. She meant that we were going to cook sausages for lunch. Nonna has her favorite butcher shop and their sausages are the best bar none—or so she says and she will only prepare their sausages. For her, there is no other option. In fact, on the day that Nonna said we were going to make sausages, we didn’t, because the butcher shop was closed for vacation for two weeks. In Italy, it is not surprising to find businesses closed for the entire month of August; because that is the month all of Italy goes on vacation. Actually, I was surprised that the butcher’s was only closed for two weeks.
Anyway, the butcher’s was closed and Nonna was not going to buy sausages from any other place, so we did not eat salsicce that day—or for the next two weeks! I left Italy before the butcher’s re-opened, so I never tasted Nonna’s salsicce e sugo made with her butcher’s irreplaceable links.
Today’s “Word of the Day” is salsicce (sausages), pronounced “sal-see-chey,” because the last several days have been unusually warm here in Minnesota and, between the heat, lack of air-conditioning, and discovering a local butcher shop, I was instantly reminded of the August I lived with the Stefanis in Viterbo, Italy—and the sausages I never got to taste.
Inside the Ledebuhr shop there was a long case of meat, expertly butchered and on display, with an entire section of sausages—brats, old-fashioned wieners, ring bologna, several types and flavors of jerky, both beef and buffalo, and the selection went on. Even though they served homemade sandwiches, this place was really more of a butcher’s than a deli. Outside of New York City or other major metropolitan areas it is rare to find a deli, which is the closest thing to an Italian salumeria in America. Actually, in Italy there is the butcher shop, macelleria, and there is the deli, salumeria. Two separate shops offering two different styles of meat and services. The salumerie usually specialize in salamis, prosciutto, cheeses and other prepared foods—similar to a New York delicatessen. The macelleria is where you would go to buy raw meat—beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, and raw sausages. Ledebuhr’s is much more of a butcher shop.
I bought some bratwurst (brats), old-fashioned wieners, and some ring bologna—all locally made, and that reminded me of an Italian butcher shop. The ring bologna was laden with whole mustard seed and other spices and the wieners were long and thin. I have yet to cook the bratwurst—I am still trying to decide if I should boil them in beer or grill them. Living in Alabama I miss not finding good homemade bratwurst, or any bratwurst for that matter, so the question of how to prepare them never arises. But up here in Yankee land, I am deliciously enticed by that dilemma. “Ah to boil or not to boil. That is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to the grill….” Well, you get my point. My northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin roots are showing.
As we are now entering summer, I hope you all will take a moment to seek out your local butcher shop and ask them what is best that day. Whether it is a steak, a chop, ribs, or even some homemade sausages or brats, investing in your local macelleria or salumeria keeps the flavors close to home—and Nonna would want it no other way.
Photo 1: inside Volpetti’s, of one of Rome’s famous salumeria.
Photo 2: the inside of a small salumeria in Castelina in Chianti, Tuscany.
Photo 3: Ledebuhr’s in Winona, MN.
Photo 4: My purchases: brats, ring bologna, and old-fashioned wieners.