Speck to Salami: A Quick Guide to Cured Meats

Normally, I stick with plain old ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. But every so often, I get the urge for something a little...fancy. That's when I turn to those classic cured meats like prosciutto and salami. Seriously yum.

All deli meats are cured in the sense that they are cooked and can be eaten cold. But meats that have been cured using classic methods of drying, brining, and salting will win in any taste test. Their flavors are deep and concentrated, while their textures are silky and tender.

A sandwich made with one of these cured meats barely needs condiments:

Prosciutto - Made from the hind leg of the pig, rubbed with salt and spices, and air-dried.

Speck - A pork-product very similar to prosciutto, this meat is smoked as a final step in the curing process.

Guanciale - This cured pork jowl needs to be fried like before eating. Just imagine making your next BLT with it!

Jamón Ibérico - As one of the most expensive cured ham products, this one is definitely a treat. But its sweet and nutty flavor is like nothing else. Serrano ham makes a close (and more affordable) second.

Virginia Surryano Ham - One of the best renditions of European-style cured ham that we've found in the US.

Bresaola - This is lean, air-cured beef with a deeper, more meaty flavor than prosciutto.

Salami - Simultaneously spicy, chewy, and sweet, this cured sausage is one of our favorites for a fully-flavored sandwich.

Lardo - Sandwiches of this thinly-sliced cured pork fat have to be some of the richest and most decadent ever. Give it a try if you ever have the chance.

These are, of course, just a handful of the delicious cured meat products available for our luxury sandwich pleasures. What are your favorites?

More on Cured Meats:

Food Science: How Meat is Cured
The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Nitrates and Their Role in Preserving Food
Help Me Cure a Ham from Scratch!

(Image: Flickr member jasonlam licensed under Creative Commons)

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