The Messy Way Mortadella Was Originally Made

Cold cuts are just a delight. They're usually easy to access, you don't need to cook them (although you can if you'd like), and they taste delicious with most everything. You can find mortadella, for instance, in everything from your pizza to a katsu sando, per Bon Appétit, and the popularity of mortadella is not going anywhere soon. Eating cold cuts is quite enjoyably easy, it's making them that can sometimes require a bit of a clean-up afterward.

Mortadella, according to Web Food Culture, is a very typical kind of Italian cold cut made from pork. Technically its full (not-so-Latin scientific) name is Mortadella Bologna, so called because its roots are in the city of Bologna where pig breeding and farming are traditional. Although made all around the world, its constitution is quite simple: emulsified meat mixed with some spices, stuffed into a casing, and steamed until cooked through, per Bon Appétit. With the help of a meat grinder, this Italian delicacy can be made in a snap, but it wasn't that easy back in the day when the meat first came about. 

Mushed with a mortar and pestle

Emulsification is the process by which meat is minced into a paste (via Meats and Sausages) and mortadella typically has bits of pistachios and/or peppercorns mixed into the meat for flavoring and texture. Nowadays emulsification is done by running the meat through a machine, but during the 1600s — when some of the first written accounts of mortadella were recorded — the processing of the meat was done by hand, per Dal Bolognese Roma.

More specifically, the meat was broken down with a mortar and pestle. In fact, some postulate that the name mortadella is derived from the Latin "mortarium" which is the word for "mortar." To make mortadella, people had to spend large amounts of time stripping and pounding the pork, then beating it into a paste that could then be used to fill casings to be steamed. Not only was this a time-consuming process, but if you've used a mortar and pestle, you know how easily ingredients can go flying out of it and make a huge mess.

We are glad that many technological advancements have been made since then because 160,000 tons of the deli meat are consumed in Italy every year, and without meat grinders, the production process would be a mess and there probably wouldn't be enough to go around.