Pepperoni is made from a cured mixture of pork and beef seasoned with paprika or other chili pepper. Salt and sodium nitrate are then added as a curing agent. The salt and sodium added prevent unwanted microorganisms, and the nitrate also gives pepperoni its color.
The characteristics of pepperoni are usually soft, slightly smoky, and bright red. While all pepperoni are sourced from America, two different styles have been made out of it, which are “old world pepperoni” and “American pepperoni.”
A Brief History of Pepperoni
Pepperoni came from pepperoni, an Italian word for bell pepper. Pepperoni is believed to be an American variety of salami. It was not actually invented in Italy. However, some of the spicy salamis in Italy have similar colors and flavors. The first use of pepperoni in print showed up in 1919. There is also another Italian word, pepperoncini, which means hot and spicy peppers.
Pepperoni in America is a raw sausage made of beef and pork. It is a dry sausage that is smoked and air-dried. Sometimes, it can be cooked. The sausage is usually soft, with a slightly smoky flavor and a bright red color. It has evolved with the industrial era of food.
However, it is often seasoned with peppers, fennel, garlic, or mustard seeds. Pepperoni’s fermented thinly sliced variety sometimes ends up as pizza toppings; it is the most popular toppings in America. It can also be used in the preparation of a variety of submarine sandwiches. It is commonly found in American supermarkets in deli counters.
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Old World Pepperoni
Old world pepperoni is also known as sausage. Old world pepperoni refers to a special variety of salami made from cured beef and pork. It is seasoned with chili pepper and paprika. Old world pepperoni comes in dark red, and it curls up when cooked. Old world pepperoni uses mostly a natural casing that is usually made of sheep gut.
Thus, it is naturally harder to slice than regular pepperonis. Therefore, you mostly find it in varying thicknesses and sizes. When cut, it may appear unevenly sliced. You may find it in a thin coating which is the casing.
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American Style Pepperoni vs. Old World Style Pepperoni
Pepperoni sausages are available in two major types: the American pepperoni, which is also known as the regular pepperoni, and the old world pepperoni, which is the traditional pepperoni. However, the two share a lot of similarities, but still, there are differences:
American pepperoni style has emerged along with the industrial era of food production. American pepperoni uses an artificial casing that produces straight and evenly thick sticks that can be easily sliced. It’s not reddish but slightly orange, while Old world pepperoni style uses natural casing made of sheep gut. Old world pepperoni becomes curly since it uses a natural casing and varies in thickness. It is dark red in color but spicy.
American-style pepperoni casing is cheaper and does not spiral, making for a more even product that is easy to slice. Nevertheless, they grow no mold coating making American-style pepperoni unable to develop old world pepperoni flavor and characteristics, while Old world style pepperoni natural casing stretches well and spirals during filling. Instead, it develops a layer of flavor mold whereby the enzymes act on the meat to improve flavor and texture.
Another feature that distinguishes American pepperoni is its simple lactic acid-producing fermentative culture, while Old world pepperoni is the traditional mixed bacterial culture. In addition, it includes a second type of bacteria known as CNC (coagulase-negative cocci), which is missing in American pepperoni.
Why Does Pepperoni Curl?
Pepperoni curls up because the natural casing shrinks when cooked. It creates a discrete lip that cooks quicker than the base. The reasons why pepperoni curls are:
Thickness: if the pepperoni slices are thicker, it determines the heating rate between the pepperoni’s top slice and bottom slice. If the pepperoni’s top slice cooks faster than the bottom, it has the tendency to shrink more which makes the pepperoni sausage curly.
Casing: casing also makes pepperoni curly. Pepperoni sausage sticks are made by stuffing meat products or mixture into casing. It can be either artificial or natural casing. Old world pepperoni has a natural casing that shrinks up when cooked or baked.
How Pepperoni is Made
Pepperoni is made of hybrid meat with its different processes. First, the finely ground pork and beef are mixed well. Some people use sodium nitrate in the mix as a curing agent. Air drying is an important part of getting the texture. It is the process of adding salt and nitrate to meat. The sodium refrains the meat from growing microorganisms, and the nitrate gives it a red or brownish color.
Next, the meat is injected with lactic acid bacteria, which is usually used to make cheese and yogurt. The lactic acid bacteria allows the meat to become better preserved. Finally, the meat is fermented, and the fermentation converts the carbs of the meat into alcohol. It is stored in the fridge, then dried in the air.
However, some producers use sugar to bring more flavor and color to the sausages. To increase the smoked flavor, a casing is essential to absorb the smoke. If the pepperoni is intended to use as pizza toppings, it is sliced and then packaged.
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What is Pepperoni Spice?
Every pepperoni has its own spice list, but obviously, the main content remains the same. Pepperoni spice mostly blended include;
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Mustard seed
- Crushed red pepper
- Fennel seed
Paprika is an essential flavor that gives pepperoni its orange hue. Although every pepperoni producer mixes a different ratio of spices, paprika is necessary.
Five Fascinating Facts about Pepperoni
Pepperoni isn’t really Italian; even though the name pepperoni is from an Italian word, bell peppers, it is a typical American invention that emerged in 1919. Although it is similar in taste and consistency to some Italian dry salami, you won’t find pepperoni on menus in Italy.
Pepperoni gets its color from spices. It gets its fiery, bright-red color and spicy, smoky flavor from paprika. Pepperoni color is also influenced by sodium nitrite, which is an ingredient used to cure the meat. It reacts with the ingredient and turns a vivid crimson hue.
It is a spicy sausage dried through the air. The casing of pepperoni that was used once is the intestines of sheep and pigs.
Pepperoni belongs to semi-dry and dry sausages. There are different types of sausages such as fresh sausage, semi-dry and dry sausages, smoked sausages, cooked sausages, e.t.c.
In one piece of pepperoni sausage, you could get 280 calories. If broken down, you will have 47% carbs, 37% fat and 16% protein.
Knowing the difference between American pepperoni and old world pepperoni will help make a better decision in making the recipe in the smallest details. These two varieties can be used interchangeably without even affecting the final taste too much. The two amazingly produce distinct toppings to your pizzas. Once you get past the texture, it is not really different from other pizza toppings known as sausage.