Abruzzese sausage is a type of dry-cured Italian sausage best known for its spiciness. A true Abruzzese sausage contains raw pork, white and black peppercorns, and blended herbs, and is cured in smoke and chili peppers. To buy the best product, look for a firm specimen with a medium grain and dense texture. The sausage should be wrinkled and discolored, and may show some white mold growing on the surface, but should never have brown spots, air pockets, or a hard surface. Avoid cooked, irradiated, or frozen sausage, which has an inferior flavor.
This kind of sausage is also known as salame Abruzzese, Abruzzese dry sausage, or sweet Abruzzese, and originates from the Abruzzo region in eastern Italy. Most sausages labeled as Abruzzese are made outside of this region and may not use the same ingredients or techniques as the traditional product. The dry-curing used in this kind of sausage means that it is sometimes sold as a kind of salami.
Abruzzese sausage is made with fresh, raw pork chopped to medium fineness, as well as black and white peppercorns and a spice mix that varies from one producer to the next. The mixture is stuffed into a natural casing, then tied either by hand or machine. The Abruzzese sausage then cures via exposure to air and internal fermentation, but is also partially smoked using wood and chili peppers, which gives it a distinctive smoky and spicy flavor.
True Abruzzese sausage should be firm and slightly difficult to cut, with a craggy-looking skin that may be coated with powdery white mold. The presence of mold on the surface of the sausage is a natural part of dry-curing, and does not indicate spoilage, but there should be no mold inside. Never buy a dry sausage that is soft, has air pockets inside, or feels very hard outside, as this can indicate contamination by bacteria or other microorganisms. Store the sausage in a cool, dry place before cutting it, and in the refrigerator after breaking the skin.
Not all meats labeled as Abruzzese sausages are produced using traditional techniques. Some products undergo cooking, freezing, or irradiation to eliminate potential contaminants and to better comply with food safety regulations. These techniques change the taste of the meat, however, and are avoided by traditional sausage makers. Correct dry-curing methods produce a safe sausage with no bacteria or other contaminants inside without interfering with the flavor.