Why small is big

Gail Thomas There’s honour in home-made ham and prestige in preserving your own prosciutto and Lara’s Christopher Scicluna knows that well.

Salami selection.
Salami selection.

Lara’s Christopher Scicluna takes his salami seriously – and so he should. Earlier this year, Scicluna’s home-made salami won him the inaugural Hamster of Lara smallgoods title.

Scicluna took home $500 and a trophy for his troubles. He’s already planning his entry for next March’s second competition – with two styles of salami.

“I made three different types last year but this year I’ve opted to make a hot and a milder one, and they are also a little bigger,” he says.

“We always make them in winter when we know we’re going to get a cold week, as you need really good cold nights and the cool breeze that comes from Ballarat and the You Yangs for the first four or five days.”

Scicluna says Lara has an excellent environment for salami-making. “This size I make is usually ready to eat in around three weeks, so we Cryovac the lot to use throughout the year,” he says.

Making smallgoods is a long-held tradition in some families but a growing number of novices are also trying their hand.

Christopher Scicluna.
Christopher Scicluna.

At this time of year, many enthusiastic food-lovers set about making home-made salumi specialties, including salami, prosciutto, capocollo and jamón.

The growing popularity of the craft was reflected earlier this year with the diverse array of entries for the Hamster of Lara competition, part of the Lara Food and Wine Festival. To enter next year’s event, it would be wise to start putting aside your best products now.

Those who have more enthusiasm than knowledge might find a salami-making class just the ticket. Agata Commisso of Amoré Cucina held one at Drysdale’s SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre recently.

“Our family is originally from Italy with a Calabrian background and I grew up with mum and dad’s recipes,” says Commisso.

“We had a fruit shop for nearly 30 years, so food was one of the main things in our lives. We used everything from the shop fresh in season, as well as bottling and preserving it.

“I’m a strict believer in eating seasonally and I love to share my family traditions and methods, otherwise they would be lost.”

Commisso says families might once have preserved whole pigs out of necessity. These days making smallgoods is more of a hobby.

“I would love to participate in the Hamster of Lara competition next year with the capocollo and salamis I’ve made, so will make sure I keep some aside,” Commisso says.

“As a teacher, I love people and sharing my knowledge. The salami-making class was very popular.”

She also plans a tapas class and other classes for the centre this year.

Cheesemaker Richard Thomas – one of the judges of the Hamster of Lara – caught up with Commisso when he led cheesemaking workshops at the centre.

“[The Hamster of Lara] was an important event as it was the first time home-made salamis were on show and compared,” he says.

“I’d also like to do the same with cheese as there are a lot of people now making their own cheese at home.”

Thomas says home production of fermented foods such as cheese is fashionable now, but it does have a longer history than other preserves including salami, anchovies and olives. He also makes his own salami.

For further information on the 2015 Hamster of Lara smallgoods competition, keep an eye on


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