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Mortadella (Italian pronunciation: [mortaˈdɛla]) is a large Italian sausage or cold cut (salume /sa'lume/) made of finely hashed or ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy. It is flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and pistachios, jalapeños and/or olives, though those with flavours other than ground pepper and myrtle are not made with the original recipe from Bologna.
Traditionally, the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar (mortaio /mor'tajo/) and pestle. Two Roman funerary steles in the archaeological museum of Bologna show such mortars. Alternatively, according to Cortelazzo and Zolli Dizionario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana 1979-88, mortadella gets its name from a Roman sausage flavored with myrtle in place of pepper.
The Romans called the sausage farcimen mirtatum (myrtle sausage), because the sausage was flavored with myrtle berries. Anna Del Conte (The Gastronomy of Italy 2001) found a sausage mentioned in a document of the official body of meat preservers in Bologna dated 1376 that may be mortadella.
Mortadella originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna; elsewhere in Italy it may be made either in the Bolognese manner or in a distinctively local style. The mortadella of Prato is a Tuscan speciality flavoured with pounded garlic. The mortadella of Amatrice, high in the Apennines of northern Lazio, is unusual in being lightly smoked. Because it originated in Bologna, this contributed to the naming of the American meat bologna.
Mortadella Bologna has Protected Geographical Indication status under European Union Law. The zone of production is extensive: as well as Emilia-Romagna and the neighbouring regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Marche and Tuscany, it includes Lazio and Trentino.
US and UK
A similar commercial product that omits the cubes of pork fat, called bologna, is popular in the United States. A variety that includes olives and pimentos is called olive loaf. Bologna sausage is also known as polony in the United Kingdom.
Iberian and Hispanic cultures
Mortadella is very popular in Spain and Portugal, where a variety with pepper and olives is widely consumed, especially in sandwiches. Sometimes, in eastern Spain, the standard mortadella is referred to as mortadela italiana (Italian mortadella), because there is a local variant named catalana.
Mortadella is also very popular in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay, thanks to the Italian immigrants who settled in these countries in the early 20th century. The normal spelling in these countries, however, is mortadela, and its recipe is quite similar to the traditional Italian, with additional pepper grains. São Paulo has a very popular mortadela sandwich sold in the Mercado Municipal.
In Puerto Rico, people consume "Smoked Mortadella", but some confuse it as commercial salami, or salami cotto because only cafeterias, panaderias, colmados and restaurant buy the bulk or whole smoked Mortadella. While Salami may contain pork, beef ,veal and small pieces of fat uniformly distributed within the sausage, Mortadella has the traditional larger chunks, not so uniformly distributed. Its diameter is much larger than that of hard salami and resembles more salami cotto (cooked) in size, hence the confusion of some people. It is smaller in diameter to the traditional Mortadella de Bologna because it has been smoked causing some shrinkage. It is best served at room temperature to bring out its rich flavor.
In Hungary, a similar product is called, in Hungarian, mortadella and a plain variety called pariser, parizer or párizsi.
In Croatia and Slovenia, the product known as mortadela is widely eaten all over both countries. In Poland, mortadela slices are sometimes dipped in batter, fried and served with potatoes and salads as a quicker (and cheaper) alternative to traditional pork chops.
In Russia, a very similar product is called "doctor's sausage," however this product is normally made from beef and pork mixture, and does not include pieces of fat and myrtle as a primary spice, being instead flavored with just coriander and nutmeg. It also traditionally contains eggs and milk, usually absent in classical mortadella.
In several Arab countries, such as the UAE, Palestine, Qatar and Syria, halal mortadella is sold, which is made from chicken, beef, or turkey, while the halal counterpart is generally called luncheon. Saniora is a typical Palestinian mortadella with sliced olives, pistachios or pepper.
It is also popular in Iran, albeit usually made with beef or lamb, and called martadella or, more commonly, kaalbas.
- Istituto per Valorizzazione dei Salumi: Mortadella (in English)
- Clifford A. Wright, "Sausage Peddlers, Vagabonds, and Bandits: Part 1": types of Italian sausage
- Carlo Cantoni and Patrizia Cattaneo, "La mortadella: aspetti attuali tecnici della sua produzione" (in Italian)
- Mortadella di Bologna (in Italian)