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Sausages and Law

March 15, 2000|RUSS PARSONS

It took a while, but David Biltchik is a man of his word. Some of you may remember reading here last year that the Washington lobbyist had promised that the importation of true Italian mortadella was right around the corner. Well, it finally is here. Or will be soon.

As of February, stores in the United States could begin selling real mortadella--the humongous pork sausage that is the pride of Bologna. It may be a while for it to show up in a store near you, but from now on it's not the federal government's fault.

After the outbreak of African swine fever in Italy in 1967, the United States banned the importation of a wide variety of Italian pork products. Slowly, those bans have been lifted. The first available pork was prosciutto from Parma in 1989. Then came prosciutto from San Daniele in 1996. Finally, mortadella.

Next on the list? Bresaola--air-dried beef--is already legal and is supposed to debut at the Fancy Food Show in New York this spring. Look next for the pork sausage cotechino and its cousin zampone by the end of the year.

"We'll be able to celebrate a true Italian-style Christmas," Biltchik says.

Of course, he notes, zampone (which comes packed in the hog's foreleg rather than in intestine) might prove to be a little sticky, despite having roughly the same stuffing ingredients as cotechino. In Italy, zampone is always sold with part of the pig's hoof attached. Biltchik warns, "I'm afraid the USDA won't like that."

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