Summer Sausage vs Salami: What’s the Difference?

You love both summer sausage and salami. Summer sausage has a lot in common with salami and also other sausages like trail bologna and thuringer cevelat.

But when thinking about summer sausage vs salami, you’ll note they’re similar in taste, look, and texture. However, they have different names for a reason – the main distinction lying in the moisture content. Salami has less moisture compared to summer sausage.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these meat delicacies and what distinguishes one from the other.

slices of summer sausage

What is Summer Sausage?

Summer sausage has a long history dating back to when German settlers set anchors off the American coast. As it was a rather long trip, they had to figure out ways to keep their food fresh. That’s when they invented the summer sausage – a cured sausage that allows travelers to enjoy it even in the hot, summer months.

These days, in America, we refer to summer sausage as any type of sausage that you can keep outside of the fridge before opening. It can either be a dried sausage or smoked sausage.

The secret to a summer sausage’s longevity lies in how it’s preserved during the production process.

For example, the fermentation process it undergoes allows for a lower pH, which slows down the growth of bacteria.

What is Summer Sausage Made Of?

In most cases, the summer sausage will include a mixture of ground pork and beef. You can also find a beef-only version.

It may come with seasonings such as black pepper, garlic, salt, mustard seeds, and others. The preservation methods, along with the seasoning, give this sausage the tangy, piquant flavor we all love.

What to Eat With Summer Sausage

You won’t go wrong pairing summer sausage with wine or cheese. Try mild varieties of cheese such as cheddar, Muenster, or Gouda. You can also enjoy this savory meat delicacy with mild crackers.

summer sausage crackers and cheese on cutting board

Alternatively, you can add a few summer sausage slices to your sandwich or use them as a pizza topping.

When it comes to the best wine to accompany it, go for Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Noir.

Summer Sausage Shelf Life

An important question you might ask is whether you should keep your summer sausage in the fridge or in the pantry. My advice is to check the label first. Even though these sausages are generally safe when kept at room temperature, some sausages might need refrigerating.

You shouldn’t put your summer sausage in the pantry if it says something along the lines of “Refrigerate after opening” on the packaging. You should always check the expiry or the “best before” date on the label.

Now, this is all very true for store-bought summer sausage (which thanks to a myriad of preservatives and chemicals, can last for several months), especially when vacuum sealed as it often is. However, things aren’t quite the same when you make your own homemade summer sausage.

If you follow a regular summer sausage recipe, and you don’t add those horrible chemicals and preservatives, you can expect it to last for about three weeks.

That said, if you want homemade summer sausage to make it to the three-week mark, you’ll have to keep it refrigerated and sealed in an airtight container.

If you want to store your summer sausage for a long time, you could consider getting a food-grade vacuum sealer. By making your own summer sausage, vacuum sealing it, and keeping it in the fridge, it can last for up to three months. You could maybe stretch this out by another couple of months if you use the right smoking method or the right curing method.

vacuum sealer sealing bag of food

Remember that unlike some other dried or cured meats which are much dryer, summer sausage does retain a good deal of its moisture after cooking, which is something that significantly decreases its shelf life when compared to a dried meat like salami.

What is Salami?

Similar to the summer sausage, salami is a cured meat. It’s a highly seasoned, fermented, and dried delicacy. Initially, it was made from pork – but today, you can find salami out of just about any kind of meat: beef, lamb, even horsemeat.

So how do you make salami? In a nutshell, the process includes mixing the fat, cure, and seasoning. Some of the most commonly used seasonings are garlic, different types of herbs, or salt. Then, the meat is chopped and stuffed into an animal intestine-made casing and left for fermenting.

The last step, the fermentation process, can last anywhere from a couple of days up to a couple of years. Usually, the salami on the supermarket’s shelves is from 30 to 90 days old. The fermentation process allows the yeasts and lactic acid to rise, as they play an essential role in sausage safety (to eat) and flavor.

What to Eat With Salami

There are no limits to what you can pair salami with. Some of the most popular combinations include toasts or omelets for breakfast. You can also use salami as a pizza topping or add it to your baked potatoes along with cheese.

salami log with slices on cutting board

Finally, you can always go for a classic salami, lettuce, cheese, and tomato sandwich.

Salami Types

How many salami types are there in the world? That’s a million-dollar question. Due to its longevity and savory flavor, salami is widely popular all over the planet.

In Italy alone, there are more than 150 salami types. There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of salami types in other European countries such as Germany, France, Hungary, and Spain.

However, I consider Italy to be the cradle of salami. There’s an Italian expression, “pane e salame (bread and salami),” which basically means “simple, good food”.

Some of the most popular Italian salami include nduja, a pork sausage spiced with chili, and salame Napoli, made with pork shoulder, leg, loin, and spices.

What Is the Difference Between Summer Sausage and Salami?

If you’re reading this article, there’s a high chance you love munching on both summer sausage and salami. Now that you’re more familiar with the specifics of each, it’s time to discuss their differences in more detail.

The most significant difference between the two is in the moisture content. Summer sausage is considered a semi-dry meat because it will lose around 15% of the original weight in the making process.

Salami contains less moisture – it loses about 25% of its moisture during the drying process. This is why salami is labeled as a dry sausage, making it harder to slice than summer sausage.

Another difference lies in the respective shelf lives. Both of these are cured (usually with sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite), meaning they have a long shelf life by default. However, there are some differences here.

The USDA recommends keeping a summer sausage in your fridge for no longer than three months – but after opening, it should only stay there for up to three weeks. When it comes to salami, it can remain on your counter for up to six weeks unopened and three weeks after opening.

Overview: Summer Sausage vs Salami

Summer SausageSalami
Semi dry sausageDry sausage
More moistureLess moisture
CuredCured
Fermented sausageFermented sausage
Can be smokedCan be smoked
Store in refrigeratorStore on countertop or refrigerator
Refrigerate for up to 12 weeks unopenedKeep on countertop for up to 6 weeks unopened
Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks after openingKeep on countertop for up to 3 weeks after opening

In Summary

Before reading this article, you may have thought these two meat products were the same. They do share the same production methods; they’re both cured and seasoned with various spices, and neither is really considered a fresh sausage.

However, salami tends to lose more moisture during the drying and cooking process. Also, it has a longer shelf life. One thing is certain – they are both delicious treats that pair well with just about any other food.