Now, along with the trends of "nose to tail" whole-animal dining, mastering the art of butchering and all things handcrafted, there's a new way to test an eco-aware diner's mettle: artisanal salumi.
There's now a surprising amount of European-style cured meats available online. Several businesses are offshoots of popular restaurants, and a few were launched by artisans from the old country who brought their skills to America. We ordered from five practitioners of the art of stuffing, spicing and aging salami, a type of salumi. We focused on quality of service, including ease of ordering and how well items were packed. (Cured salamis don't require packing in ice, but some companies do so as a precaution.)
Cristiano Creminelli, who launched his Salt Lake City-based Creminelli Fine Meats in 2007, hails from a Northern Italian family that has been producing artisanal meats since the 1600s, according to the website. His well-organized site allows for browsing through products and recipes before committing to our choices.
We selected the Gourmet Artisan Salami Mix for $45 (it's now $36.99), not including a $9.95 flat shipping charge. The next day we received confirmation our order had shipped. Two days later, it arrived well packed with large ice packs in a Styrofoam box within a cardboard box. It was still cool to the touch. Chris Bowler, Creminelli co-founder and president, said that though there is no health risk if it gets warm, the ice is "an assurance" against unforeseen hot weather, during which the fat content might soften and slightly diminish the salamis' quality and taste.
Salumist Elias Cairo, a co-owner of Portland's Olympic Provisions, has studied meat-curing in Europe and his products are based on 12 regional European "flavor profiles." The site for Olympic, which also operates two restaurants and a meat-curing facility, was easy to navigate.
We opted for the $40 European Sampler, a mix of Greek, Spanish, Italian and French styles. Because we made a mistake with our online payment, we received our order 11 days after ordering, instead of the one to two days the site promised. The package was filled with informational inserts including tips on how to eat and store the salamis.
Olympic's Michelle Cairo, a sister of Mr. Cairo's who runs the business side of the operation, noted that Olympic doesn't ship on Thursday or Friday to avoid having its products "sit in a warehouse" over a weekend, which could harm the live mold the company uses to coat the salamis (most salumi makers use rice flour). Though Olympic has experimented with ice packs, Ms. Cairo noted they can cause the mold to release an ammonia smell. The company also sells memberships to its "Salami of the Month Club," which allows members to sample one variety of its 12 salamis each month.
A San Francisco chef-restaurateur duo, Chris Cosentino and Mark Pastore, are the team behind Oakland-based Boccalone, which sells its salami in a San Francisco shop as well as online. Its tastefully simple site offers a "Handling & Recipes" page that includes instructional videos on Mr. Cosentino's slicing technique. Boccalone offers three, six and 12-month subscriptions to its "Salumi Society," which provides a monthly box of assorted salumi and sausages.
We chose a $55 four-piece sampler with peppered; brown sugar and fennel; orange and wild fennel; and sopressata (a more coarsely-ground slightly spicy Calabrian style) varieties. Email tracking and order updates were prompt and our shipment arrived two days later, packed in a handsome, sturdy gift box.
At the website for Olli Salumeria in Mechanicsville, Va., we paid $57 for an order of four Calabrese salami spiced with cayenne pepper and paprika. Olli co-founder Oliviero Colmignoli, whose grandfather founded one of the largest salumi makers in Italy, started his own company in the U.S. in 2010 featuring salami and cured meats made with a mix of organic, Berkshire and heritage breed pigs. The site is a breeze to navigate and our order arrived two days later. Our only quibble was we couldn't find a variety pack to order. Chief Operating Officer Rondall Powers later said we could find a five-piece sampler under the "Shop" and "Shop by Category/Salame" headings. He added that the site is undergoing a redesign now to make it less confusing.
The no-frills site of Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Seattle describes how making salumi was the "retirement dream" of founder Armandino Batali (the father of famed chef Mario Batali). The elder Mr. Batali has since retired again, and daughter Gina and her husband Brian Damato now run the store in Seattle serving salumi, soups and sandwiches, as well as a very small mail-order business.
From its short list, we selected the Salami Duo, a 2-pound combo of plain and fennel salami. The next day an email message informed us that East Coast shipping was $30 plus a $5 handling charge, which we had missed on the "Shipping our Products" page. We also were told the shipping date would be 11 days hence. Our email query about the shipping elicited an apology and the explanation, "We're just a tiny place" where only a dozen orders a week are shipped to online shoppers and only on Wednesdays. When a FedEx problem caused our package to be delayed by three days, Ms. Batali said we would be reimbursed the shipping cost.