It's a lesson in family history best taught beneath the terracotta tile roof of a small residential garage, the air pungent with the scent of crushed chilli, garlic and peppercorns. Some salumi may take only weeks to cure, but a family recipe can be generations in the making.
Back for another year, the Melbourne Salami Festa looks set to become a tradition in itself. Slip a sliver of pancetta into the diary and mark 16 October as the kick-off for a weekend of mincing, filling, curing, slicing and, above all else, tasting.
"We're very excited about expanding this year's event with a Festa-eve night market, and making it a weekend celebration," says festival director Carlo Mazzarella. Last year, the single-day festa attracted more than 3,100 spectators and handed out 25,000 slices of salami.
This year it takes in an opening party on Friday, a night market on Saturday, and the big competition on Sunday. The Saturday market will showcase some of Australia's best artisan smallgoods, along with salami-making demonstrations, bocce, and live music, all of which continue into Sunday's competition. Colour, density, aroma and taste are the four criteria determining the winners of this year's three grand prizes, from the coveted judge's choice to the people's choice and salami suburb awards.
Last year, a non-Italian (gasp!), a former butcher, took home the prize for top hog after wowing the judges with his method of hanging his salami from a tall mountain ash tree. Festival-goers can expect stiff competition this year as the Italian community fights to reclaim the top spot.
"The competition is getting more and more serious every year and the festival just keeps growing," says Mazzarella.
Among the judges sitting on this year's panel will be restaurateur Guy Grossi, chef Dom Marzano, Rosa Mitchell of Rosa's Kitchen and Canteen, and 'Head Nonna' Rocchina Catoggio.
Besides the salami, there will be offerings of St Ali coffee and Messina gelato to stifle the spice, plus masterclasses in everything from breaking down a pig to making blood pudding and English-style pork pies.
Melbourne Salami Festa, Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote, Vic. Opening night party 7pm-11pm Friday 16 October; tickets $50. Night market 5pm-10pm Saturday 17 October; tickets $10. Salami Festa 10am-6pm Sunday 18 October; tickets $15. Online bookings recommended; limited tickets will be available at the door.