The word salame refers to incased meat, however you will find that the shape, size and flavor can change dramatically from region to region in Italy. To properly taste salame, it should be cut into fairly thick slices using a knife and then analyzed at room temperature using four of our five senses.
Sight: A good salame should have a casing, preferably a natural one, in good conditions and with the right amount of white and grey mold. If the salame has been aged properly, it should be easy to peel. If not, wrap it in a damp cloth for a couple of hours until it becomes easy to remove. Once sliced, it should be analyzed visually. Place the slice on a plate and hold the plate perpendicular from your line of vision. The salame should be uniformly red in the lean parts and white where there is fat. The lean meat and fat should be distributed evenly and there should not be holes or fissures in the meat. There should also not be dark, hard parts on the outside of the slice.
Touch: Salame should not be rubbery, nor crumbly. If folded or bent, it should open back up into its original shape.
Smell: When you hold a slice of salame to your nose, you should smell the delicate aromas of aged meat, pepper and spices. Aromas of leather or smoke are acceptable, however notes of mold, rancidity, sulfur, ammonia and manure are not.
Taste: In your mouth, the salame should have a balance of sweet and savory flavors. It should not be too sweet, too salty or lacking in flavor. Slight acidity is a sign of a young salame, but it should go away with aging. Salame should never be bitter and its structure should not be gummy or fibrous.
How to store it: A whole salame is best stored hung in a cool, dry place rather than in the refrigerator. Once sliced, it should be consumed within a couple of weeks or vacuumed packed and placed in the coolest part of the refrigerator. An unsliced portion of a salame can also be stored in the fridge if carefully wrapped in plastic wrap. If considerable time has passes since last sliced, be sure to throw away the first new slice. Once sliced, the salame should be consumed quickly to avoid oxidation.