My Rouses Everyday, March | April 2018
Correggio is a small, provincial hamlet in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy — a lush, picturesque region in the fertile Po river valley, beside the breathtaking landscape of the Apennine mountain range. Giuseppe Verdi, the operatic composer of La Traviata and Aida, was born in Emilia; so was fashion designer Giorgio Armani, tenor star Luciano Pavarotti and groundbreaking film director Federico Fellini. The area is famous as the home of luxury racecar brands like Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari. Perhaps less glamorously, it is also the birthplace of the giant mortadella.
As Europe and the world at large recovered from the ravages of the first World War, the five Veroni brothers did their part in little Correggio. From their family’s small food shop in the town center, they sold their neighbors the specialty cured meats that they crafted carefully by hand according to family recipes and techniques. It was a small thing, perhaps, but essential in its own way — to rebuild community around familiar flavors and traditions. In 1925, the Fratelli Veroni — Fiorentino, Francesco, Paolo, Adolfo and Ugo — officially established their company. Today, from multiple production facilities at home in Correggio and across Emilia-Romagna, the Veroni descendants ship their products all over the world.
The brothers made a range of meats, from rich, marbled coppa to salty, silky pancetta and spicy salami, all made with the same attentive care (all still made today). But they did, according to family lore, have one favorite specialty: mortadella, the soft, fatty, bologna-like pork sausage flavored with black pepper, garlic and tender green pistachios. The best way to make a signature mortadella was a subject of rigorous debate during the business’s early years, according to the official history of the company on its website. Each brother had a different idea of what part of the recipe to tweak — more salt? More pork fat? More nuts? — and the arguments would last, literally, late into the night, exasperating spouses and other family members who hadn’t caught the mortadella fever.
Finally, in 1930, they reached a consensus and a new goal. They would make their special mortadella the biggest that anyone had ever seen. The average mortadella weighed 12 kilograms and was half a meter in length (about 26 pounds and 20 inches.) The giant mortadella would surpass that by orders of magnitude, stretching to eight meters in length and more than 2,000 kilograms. The plan required much trial and error, from experimenting with ingredient measures and cooking times to actually developing and building new kitchen machinery that was capable of cooking and stuffing such an ambitious sausage. But with perseverance, the five brothers cracked the case, and the monster mortadella became the company’s signature creation. Veroni even holds the Guinness World Record for the largest mortadella, registering a win in 1994 with a 2,030-kilogram product. Two years later, they broke their own record, producing a whopper piece of meat that weighed in at 2,680 kilograms, or nearly 6,000 pounds. (That’s a lot of sandwiches.) Sewing its casing, according to Veroni, took a group of seamstresses two weeks of work; tying it required more than a kilometer of rope.
Most of us, to be sure, are unlikely to need a mortadella the size of two Volkswagen Beetles, an adult hippopotamus or $120,000 in quarters. But a company that would take the time to make that happen in the first place — the idea, the debate, the endless tasting and testing, the technological innovations, the teamwork, the ambition and the pride in the final product — is surely a company whose customers need never worry about how the sausage is made.