The muffuletta sandwich is traditionally made with mortadella, ham, salami, provolone, mozzarella, and olive salad on a soft, sesame seed bread. Based on its Italian ingredients, it may come as a surprise that the muffuletta was first created in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
The French Quarter’s Central Grocery, which has been open since 1906, is the birthplace of the muffaletta. Around that time, a majority of the clientele were local Sicilian immigrants who visited during lunchtime and fumbled with large plates of meat, cheese, olives, and bread. Central Grocery‘s owner, Salvatore Lupo, also a Sicilian immigrant, came up with the idea to combine it all into a sandwich. It has since become a New Orleans staple.
Ask for a muffuletta in Italy, and all you will get is a loaf of sesame seed bread. The sandwich takes its name from the Sicilian bread it’s made with.
On May 28, a ban on cured Italian meats that had been in place since 1963 was lifted. The ban was on Italian pork, specifically, and was due to the outbreak of at least two contagious swine diseases over fifty years ago. Last month, Italian officials had declared many of the northern Italian regions free of swine disease, which opens up the opportunity for export. In 1987, the ban was lifted on imported prosciutto and mortadella, because they are aged for more than 400 days which was proved to kill the swine virus.
The regional meats that are soon heading our way include salami, coppa, pancetta, soppressata and the prized culatello. Culatello originates from the Po River Valley. It is made from the hind leg of a pig like prosciutto, but only the tender rear part that is free from bone and skin. It is salted and carefully massaged before it is encased in a pig bladder. It is then hung in a slightly humid barn or cave where it will age for at least a year. The taste of culatello is richer than that of prosciutto.
Below is a photo of culatello di Zibello I had at a restaurant in Santa Margherita Ligure during my last trip to Italy. It was served with a robiola cheese and fruit mostarda. There is a reason I keep going on about culatello…it’s amazing.
Then what’s the wait? Well, the certification for Italian meat producers can take up to three months, and the high demand for this previously unattainable meat is going to make finding it a challenge once it does arrive.