A couple of weeks ago, Slow Food brought its annual Slow Meat convention–a celebration of all things cured-meat-esque- to Denver. And because you can never have enough cured meat, Denver held a “Charc’ Week” at the same time.
I hit as many events as I could. After all, it’s my “job.” My biggest takeaway? ‘Nduja is the next big thing. Many producers had their own take on ‘Nduja on display, whereas last year, no one had ‘Nduja at all.
What’s that? You say you’re not familiar with ‘Nduja? And you have no idea how to even pronounce this weird word? Well, let me enlighten you.
First, pronunciation: ‘Nduja is pronounced En-doo-ya. It’s a contraction from the Latin word inducer which, just as it sounds, means to induce. To induce what, I have no idea. Possibly, to induce crying in those with a spice aversion, I guess, because ‘Nduja is very spicy.
But what is it, and why is it so hot? Well, let’s tackle what it is first before we address why. ‘Nduja is a very, very spicy forcemeat (aka the stuff inside the casing of a sausage) traditionally made from the meat scraped off the head of the pig, and flavored with hot red pepper. Lots and lots and lots of hot red peppers.
It comes from Calabria, which is way down in the toe of the boot of Italy. It’s very hot down there (the only place you can go next is Sicily), and their foods have a tendency to reflect the weather: hot.
But what really makes ‘Nduja unique, and I suppose the reason it has become so popular, is that unlike traditional salumi where the sausage is stuffed into casings air-dried until it’s hard, ‘Nduja has so much emulsified fat in it that it never hardens. Imagine spicy salami, but with the texture of liverwurst or rillettes, and you have the picture.
The proper way to use it is to squeeze some out of its casing and spread it on bread or crackers or incorporate it into a recipe, where it will dissolve, leaving only its trademark heat, as it melts completely into whatever you add it in to.
This opens up a whole new arena for chefs and foodies alike. Instead of using a hard salami that is either cubed and sautéed or sliced and eaten raw, ‘Nduja’s heavy flavor and soft texture is a perfect ingredient in many different methods of cooking.
Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan, and we’ll definitely be carrying ‘Nduja in our salumi case at Cheese+Provisions. And we’ll be happy to help you figure out the almost endless ways you can use it. Think on pizza, in Bolognese, on bruschetta, in lasagna, sprinkled over a salad, on your finger .
Or let us pair it with a gutsy chardonnay and some nice sheep’s milk cheese!