Cut it. Clean it. Mince it. Spice it. Mix it. Pipe it. Hang and age it. Watching the Melbourne Salami Festa's time-lapse footage of an entire pig being broken down and made into salami is fascinating in a mechanical, Daft Punk-esque way. It shows that homemade salami is hard work, that it requires entire weekends, large sheds, backyards and extended families of Italian proportions to make it happen, and stand around eating for moral support. Doesn't all that effort deserve a festival?
Thus the Melbourne Salami Festa was born. The Festa's founder, Carlo Mazzarella, knew there were some well-kept family secrets hanging in Melbourne's garages that would remain there unless he did something about it. Having grown (or fermented) into its third year, the festival has acquired a judging panel of sanctified Melbourne salami authorities, with Chef Guy Grossi as the festival's patron. He has fond memories of "garage brigade" salami, and speaks passionately of "waiting for the little jewel to mature" with the "lovely, rich cured smell, firm, textured mouthfeel", and proper binding techniques that are essential to a top home-cure.
Although the competition entries this year have already been judged, ticket-holders can still put their two cents in for the People's Choice Award on the day. And while this is a celebration of the backyard producer, the festival's salumi market also showcases the best artisanal producers from around the country.
Another highlight of the Festa will be the Patron's truffle salami made by Grossi and served as part of a three-course gala dinner at Merchant Osteria Veneta on 24 October. Unfortunately, it's now sold out, but Grossi describes it as a "pork fest" where the menu will explore all parts of the pig, including housemade mortadella, Altamura bread with an 'nduja centre, potted pork and a dessert of blood tart.
Should you be inspired to join the home-fermentation wave and make your own salami (maybe even enter it in next year's competition), the Festa includes demonstrations focusing on the nitty gritty of breaking down a pig and how to make salami, as well as the dark(er) art of making blood sausage. Whether you plan to eat, learn, shop, or do all three, it's going to be a day with plenty of seriously good sausage on offer.
Melbourne Salami Festa, 10am-6pm, Sunday 26 October, Northcote Town Hall, 189 Northcote High St, Northcote, Vic. General admission tickets are $10 (children under 12 are free) and available at the door only, so arrive early.