Mortadella (Italian pronunciation: [mortaˈdɛlla]) is a large Italian sausage or cold cut (salume [saˈluːme]) 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 and pistachios, jalapeños and/or olives, though those with flavoule are not made with the original recipe from Bologna.
Traditionally, the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar (mortaio [morˈtaːjo]) 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, a popular spice before pepper became available to European markets. 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.
Mortadella was banned from import into the United States in 1967 due to an outbreak of African swine fever in Italy that year, the ban wasn't lifted until the year 2000. This ban was a pivotal part of the plot of the 1971 film La mortadella starring Sophia Loren. The title for the United States release was Lady Liberty.
The ban in the United States was lifted due to the Veterinary Equivalency Agreement that allowed countries to export products that had been shown to be disease free as part of an overall agreement that would allow products deemed safe in the United States to be exported to the European Union.
Lusitanic 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, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela, 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 Romania, a similar cold-cut is also known as "pariser" or "parizer". It is a type of artisan bologna. In Hungary, a similar product is called, in Hungarian, mortadella and a plain variety called pariser, parizer or párizsi. In Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, the product known as mortadela is widely eaten. 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. There is a sausage with pieces of fat, called "Lubitelskaya" and another one "Stolichnaya".
In several countries, such as Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, UAE, Qatar and Syria, halal mortadella is sold, which is made from chicken, beef, or turkey. Lebanese Al-Taghziah was among the first Halal brands. Saniora is a typical Palestinian mortedella 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.
Pork mortadella is sold in Egypt and Lebanon.
- 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)
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