From Parma and Piacenza within the Emilia-Romagna region comes Cappello del prete—a distinctive type of salame that has won the honour of being recognised as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale. This label highlights not just its geographical origin but also its historical and cultural significance.
For those intrigued by its name, “Cappello del prete,” it directly translates to “priest’s hat.” But it’s not just a moniker—this name is deeply tied to the cut of the meat used and its eventual shape. The salame assumes a triangular form with a slight camber in the centre, reminding people of the three-point hats that priests traditionally wore.
This salame is not a recent addition to the Italian kitchen; its roots can be traced back to the 16th century in Emilia. Traditionally savoured during Easter and Carnival seasons, it has been a staple of celebratory feasts for centuries.
The preparation of this cappello del prete salame is equally steeped in tradition and meticulous detail. The pork shoulder, from which the meat is sourced, is first deboned. The muscle tissue is then separated from the rind but not discarded. Instead, it is carefully preserved to later act as an external coating, an envelope of sorts that will hold the meat.
Next, the meat is seasoned with a careful balance of salt, peppercorns, and aromatic herbs. This seasoned meat is then reinserted into the saved rind. After a couple of days, allowing for the full penetration of the spices, the rind is carefully sewn up. This enclosed package is then wedged between two tightly fitting wooden boards that help to maintain the characteristic shape of the Cappello del prete as it ages.
Ah, the aging process. Unlike some quick-to-prepare meat dishes, this salame requires patience. Depending on the local climate, it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months for the salame to fully mature. But the waiting doesn’t end there. Once aged, the Cappello del prete isn’t ready for the dining table. It undergoes a slow boiling process for a minimum of four hours. This slow-cooked marvel is finally ready to be sliced and served, usually with mashed potatoes or lentils, thereby providing a hearty meal that satisfies the stomach and the soul.
While this dish is rich in flavour and historical significance, it’s important to note that it is also a fine example of utilising less popular meat cuts. The pork shoulder, often overlooked, becomes the star of the show in this preparation, underlining how traditional cooking methods can elevate otherwise ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.