In this article, we will be talking about old world pepperoni. I want to take you on an exciting journey of the history of pepperoni, what it is, and what makes it different from American-style pepperoni (you’ll never go back!)
There’s a lot of wild information out there in the world today. Virtually anything can be looked up online, and sometimes it’s challenging to understand what’s accurate and not so natural.
Rest assured, I’ve done my research. I may not be the world’s leading expert on all things pepperoni, but I’ve spent a long time absorbing as much information as possible to ensure I get my readers the best of the best (and hey, I have been making pizzas for decades – so I know what is right and what is wrong!)
Why pepperoni? Better yet, why old world pepperoni? Of all the things I could spend my life learning about, pepperoni might seem like the most obscure topic on the planet.
But there’s a lot of fascinating history connected to food, especially food like pepperoni. For instance, the word “pepperoni” comes from an Italian word for bell pepper.
So buckle up whether you’ve always been interested in old-world pepperoni or just stumbled onto the subject. It’s about to get interesting.
I plan to spend a good deal of time talking about the history of pepperoni pizza toppings and some interesting facts about old world pepperoni and where you can find it today.
If you aren’t salivating by the end of this article, then I haven’t done my job. My hope is that this topic teaches you something new and gets you curious enough to go find some old world pepperoni pizza and try it for yourself.
What Is Old World Pepperoni?
Pepperoni pizza toppings are incredibly popular. There are a few notable words that come to mind when thinking about old world pepperoni:
Each word is uniquely fitting to describe the substance we know as old world pepperoni. But it doesn’t really answer the critical question here: what is old world pepperoni?
At a basic level, old world pepperoni is pork or a beef and pork mixture fermented with several different bacterial cultures.
We need to go back to the early 19th century for a more complex and detailed answer. I won’t say things were simpler back then because that’s likely, not true. Things were never quite as simple in the past as we like to think.
Things were exciting, though. All kinds of new and interesting things were coming into existence, like the typewriter, the sewing machine, and of course, old world pepperoni.
History In the Making
Despite what we all might assume, old world pepperoni was not invented in Italy. As far as anyone knows, it wasn’t even invented in Europe. It turns out that old world pepperoni originated in the United States of America.
Sometime in the 1800s, many Italian immigrants were filtering into the United States and bringing their culinary traditions with them. Pepperoni first appeared during this time as an Italian-American creation, made from pork or a mixture of pork and beef.
It’s believed that pepperoni first came from Italian immigrants in Manhattan. Some people say it came about in the late 1800s, others say it turned up around the same time that pizza parlors first appeared in the early 1900s.
Either way, by the early 1900s, old world style pepperoni was making inroads in the American culinary culture.
Where Pepperoni Comes From
Old world pepperoni comes from pork or a mixture of pork and beef. It generally depends on the person making the pepperoni.
The pepperoni pork or beef and pork mixture is cured with chili powder and paprika seasonings.
Old world pepperoni is similar to Italian salami sausage, which popped up in southern Italy. The primary differences between Italian salami and pepperoni are the flavor and the texture.
We’ll talk more about the flavor differences later. As far as texture goes, old world style pepperoni has a finer grain, which gives the pepperoni a much softer texture than salami.
Old World Vs. American Pepperoni
Now that we know more about old world pepperoni pizza, it’s time to look it up against the classic American pepperoni we all know and love.
Well, we at least all know about it. Even if pepperoni sausages aren’t everyone’s favorite pizza topping, it’s certainly high on the list.
Studies and polls have shown pepperoni pizzas are undoubtedly America’s favorite pizzas. Most pizza places in America, especially the bigger companies, don’t use old world pepperoni on their pizza pies.
American pepperoni pizza is different in a few key ways from old world style pepperoni, especially in the color and taste.
There are a few ways that we can always tell the difference between old world pepperoni and American-style pepperoni. Some of those distinguishing features include:
- Taste: old world pepperoni is spicier and thicker.
- Casing: old world pepperoni style typically has a natural casing, usually made of sheep gut.
- Cooking: because of the natural casing, old world pepperoni curl happens. This means it tends to cook crispier and curl up at the edges, whereas American-style pepperoni sausages usually stays flat when it cooks.
- Color: old world pepperoni is a reddish color, while American-style pepperoni is more orange.
The next sections discuss the differences between special and regular pepperoni color and taste more in-depth.
The color is one of the main distinguishing features between old world pepperoni and American-style pepperoni. Old world pepperoni is a reddish color, while American pepperoni has more of an orange hue.
Old world style pepperoni sausages have a redder hue because of the:
- Type of meat
- Seasonings added
The meat has a natural red-like color, and the seasonings added are typically things like chili powder and paprika. These are both deep red seasonings that make the color of old world pepperoni much redder.
American-style pepperoni has an orange hue also because of the paprika seasoning.
The taste is also a critical difference between old world pepperoni and America-style pepperoni. The taste of old world pepperoni comes largely from the fact that it gets crunchy when it goes into the oven.
The crunchiness of old world style pepperoni gives it a bacon-like flavor with a nice hint of smokiness. The seasonings that we’ve already mentioned, chili and paprika, give the bacon and smoky flavors.
American pepperoni seems to have a flavor only described as pepperoni-like. It definitely tastes like meat; more specifically, it tastes like something pork-related. I like to note that pepperoni is slightly spicy, tangy, and salty.
What About Salami?
Now I mentioned salami earlier, and it’s worth noting how this piece fits into the story of pepperoni. The two types of meat are closely related.
As I stated, most people think that pepperoni came from or by salami, or at least that salami influenced pepperoni. Salami is different from pepperoni in that:
- Salami is not nearly as spicy as pepperoni
- Salami does not typically have any natural casing
- Salami is generally made with cured beef, pork, and veal, and sometimes poultry
- Salami spices are different than pepperoni spices
- Salami doesn’t have a smokey flavor unless it’s a smoked variety
- Salami texture tends to be slightly harder than pepperoni
Pepperoni Variety Summarized
Before we move on to the next section, let’s summarize what we’ve learned about the differences in pepperoni:
- All pepperoni was invented in America by Italian immigrants and Italian-American butchers
- Pepperoni is closely related to salami, which comes from southern Italy
- Pepperoni is spicy, soft, and fine-grain textured
- Pepperoni is thicker than other pepperoni variants
- Old world pepperoni curls up on the end and is reddish
- American pepperoni has a tangy flavor and an orange hue
- Salami is less spicy and does not generally have a natural casing of any kind
Where Can I Buy Old World Pepperoni?
Old world pepperoni might sound like it’s from an entirely different century, but it’s an incredibly popular item at grocery stores, delis, markets, and butcher shops. We don’t have to look too far to find a great selection of pepperoni.
Most grocery stores sell old world pepperoni, especially if they have a meat market or fresh deli section. Grocery store patrons can access all kinds of delicious meats, including pepperoni.
Traveling to a nearby butcher or deli shop could expose shoppers to interesting kinds of pepperoni. Perhaps a homemade recipe that has only existed in one family for decades is on sale. It’s definitely worth checking out.
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Can I Make Old World Pepperoni?
The question I always ask when I’m reading about some delicious meal is, can I make that for myself? And the answer to pepperoni is a resounding yes. Homemade old world pepperoni is some of the best pepperonis out there.
A few special ingredients are needed for anyone looking to make their old world pepperoni. In particular, finding the right bacteria culture is important so the meat can ferment properly. Without that, it becomes dangerous to consume homemade pepperoni.
It’s also important to let the pepperoni cure for the right amount of time.
Old World Pepperoni Recipe
I love cooking new and interesting things, so finding an old world pepperoni recipe was incredibly exciting. For anyone looking to take on this very special task, be prepared: it takes a long time and a lot of forethought, but it’s definitely worth the hassle.
To make old world pepperoni at home, here are the needed ingredients:
- Pork butt with fat
- Lean beef chuck
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Dry win, preferably red
- Ascorbic acid
- Sausage casing or natural casing of some kind
- White vinegar
Grinding the pork and the beef together is the first step. Then mix it all with the spices, the red wine, the acid, and the saltpeter.
Stick it in the fridge for at least 24 hours, and then prep the casing.
For anyone uncertain about how to prep sausage casing, I suggest looking it up or watching an instructional video about it. Don’t try to just figure it out.
Once everything is prepped, start sticking the pork and beef mixture into the casing. The pepperoni needs to dry somewhere for six to eight weeks for the bacteria culture to properly cure the meat.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while making the pepperoni:
- Always handle raw meat with care
- The cured beef can be replaced with more pork
- A butcher can grind meat for those who don’t have a grinder at home
- Cured meat almost always develops a layer of mold on the outside; simply remove it before consuming
- Pepperoni should dry in a room that’s between 50-55 degrees
- The room needs about 80% humidity
- Don’t eat the pepperoni if it’s solid on the outside and mushy on the inside
- Sometimes sodium nitrate is added as a curing agent
- Nitrate is also added to give pepperoni more color
- The main spice is paprika, so make sure to use plenty of it
- Additional spices that make pepperoni unique include anise, fennel, cinnamon, mustard seed, cloves, and nutmeg
- Add cayenne pepper for extra spice
- Making pepperoni at home gets easier every time
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve talked a lot about old world pepperoni. There’s still more that we could discuss, especially considering how many American pizza recipes there are worldwide. We’ve even looked at a pepperoni recipe that people can try at home.
Old world pepperoni is a fascinating topic, especially considering the popularity of American-style pepperoni. Let’s look at some frequently asked questions about old world pepperoni.
What is the main ingredient in pepperoni?
The main ingredient in pepperoni is usually pork. Old world pepperoni is typically made from a mix of pork and beef. There are different cuts of these meats that might be used for pepperoni, including:
- Pork butt
- Beef chuck
- Beef round
- Beef shank
Pepperoni can be made with all pork. Some recipes also include veal, but veal is a common ingredient in closely related cured meat salami.
Beef pepperoni is also possible. If beef pepperoni is more desirable, simply use beef instead of pork.
Is pepperoni just salami?
No, pepperoni and salami are two different types of cured meat. As we’ve already discussed, a few key differences differentiate between pepperoni and salami.
We don’t need to review them now, but it might be worthwhile to scroll back up and read through the summary section again if confusion lingers.
The main thing to remember is that, while pepperoni and salami are two different kinds of meat, the invention of pepperoni was most likely influenced by the Italian meat salami.
Italian sausage is an interesting topic that deserves it’s very own article. The biggest similarity between pepperoni and salami is that they are both considered Italian sausage.
Can animals eat pepperoni?
Some pet owners couldn’t care less about what their animals eat. My grandpa always fed his dog straight from the table, regardless of what my grandmother had to say about the issue.
Pepperoni sausages are very fatty and salty meat, meaning that it’s not the best treat or snack to give to any animal. Fat and salt can be incredibly bad for animals, so avoiding these in their diet is a good idea.
Is pepperoni good for you?
Pepperoni is filled with protein and a lot of good vitamins. Some of the notable nutrients in pepperoni include:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
However, just because it contains these helpful nutrients doesn’t mean that all pepperoni or pepperoni pizza is healthy. It’s also high in fat and salt, two things that should be consumed in moderation.
Can you eat pepperoni raw?
Because of the curing process, “raw” pepperoni is perfectly safe to eat without cooking. Pepperoni can be cooked, such as on top of pizzas, but it is not necessary.
Old World Pepperoni: Wrapping Up
So that’s the scoop on the Italian-American creation of old world pepperoni. All that’s left is to head to the local butcher’s and try it on the next family pizza night!