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The Origin of Pepperoni: History, Fun Facts and More

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Here at Dogtown Pizza, we love learning about pizza almost as much as we love eating pizza, and we’re pleased to continue our series covering the history of pizza with a look at America’s favorite pizza topping: pepperoni!

If you missed our earlier pizza history posts, get caught up on the history of St. Louis-style Pizza and a fun explainer on Salsicca Sausage.

Pepperoni: Where Did This Favorite Pizza Topping Come From?

The pepperoni origin starts with the practice of curing meats as a way to preserve them without refrigeration and this practice dates all the way back to the Roman Empire!

Drying and smoking meats for preservation goes back further, but the Romans pioneered the process of curing meats with salt and other spices, which allowed them to keep a stock of meats instead of having to rely on what they could catch every single day, and curing was more reliable than other preservation methods of the time.

Later, various types of sausage were made all across Europe, including some spicy red sausages in regions of Italy—but pepperoni isn’t Italian.

History

Despite being thought of as an Italian meat, bright red meat product is actually as Italian-American as chicken parm!

The origin of pepperoni is an adaptation of other spicy sausage recipes, made with the ingredients that were available at the time in America.

The first known mention of pepperoni occurred in 1919, in New York City. At this time, the topping began to appear in a number of Italian delis and pizzerias across Lower Manhattan.

“Until about the ‘50s, it was considered an ethnic Italian dish.” The commercialization of the gas pizza oven, veterans returning from the Second World War, and the beginning of media coverage of pizza all converged and began to popularize the dish” says pizza scholar, historian, author of New Haven Apizza, and tour operator Colin Caplan. (source)

In modern Italy, the word “pepperoni” is often used when talking about bell peppers—so if you order “pepperoni pizza” in a part of Italy that doesn’t get a lot of tourists, you may be in for a surprise!

Pepperoni Facts

Pepperoni Facts

  • Americans consume 251.7 million pounds of pepperoni annually (source)
  • Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the United States at 66% (source)
  • National Pepperoni Pizza Day is September 20th
  • The Italian word “pepperoni” means “large peppers.”

 

How It’s Made

A lot of people say it’s a bad idea to see sausage being made, and we’re not quite sure why: the process of making pepperoni is fascinating! Pepperoni starts with fine or medium minced pork and beef, which is combined with peppers, garlic, fennel, mustard seed and other seasonings.

Salt and/or nitrites are also added to cure the meat. The mixture is then sealed and refrigerated for a few days. After that, the mixture is stuffed into casings (hog casings are traditionally used).

Once the cured meat is in the casings, the casings are tied off to form a rope of links. The links are then refrigerated for 12 hours to solidify into shape, and then the links are hung to dry, usually in a smoke chamber to add extra preservation and smoky goodness, for a few weeks.

After the meat has dried, the links are packaged individually or sliced, and shipped to your nearest grocery store—or to Dogtown Pizza, where they are the star of the show on our Dogtown Pepperoni Pizza. You can also find our round red friends on the Dogtown Sausage & Pepperoni Pizza and Dogtown 4 Meat Pizza!

Favorite Foods for Pepperoni Lovers

Pasta Salad

Pepperoni Stromboli

 

 

Charcuterie Board

 

Pepperoni Pizza (Obviously!)

What are your favorite pizza toppings to combine with pepperoni? What should we cover next in our Dogtown Pizza’s History of Pizza series? Let us know in the comments!

 

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