Pepperoni is one of the most popular and most universally processed meat products in the world. It is a mainstay of a number of famous dishes, including of course, being a topping on a pizza. In fact, pizza manufacturers throughout the United States and the world rely on high-quality pepperoni to be able to make delicious and tasty pizza that will satisfy their customers.
Pepperoni is an American version of salami. It is made from beef and cured pork mixed together and then seasoned with paprika and other chili pepper. It is characteristically soft, a bit smoky, and is bright red in color. Pepperoni is indeed one of the most famous pizza topping and it is also used as a filling in the West Virginia pepperoni roll. But have you ever wondered who invented pepperoni and where did it came from?
Many might be thinking that pepperoni is of Italian origin but they are wrong because it’s actually an entirely American product. If you’re curious about its origins, then let us know the history of pepperoni as well as how it became America’s favorite pizza topping.
Origin of Pepperoni
Pepperoni came from the word peperoni which is an Italian word for bell pepper. What Americans call pepperoni can be called salame picante which is a generic term meaning “spicy salami” in Italy. The first use of the term pepperoni to refer to a sausage can be traced back to 1919. There’s also another Italian word, pepperoncino, that refers to hot and spicy peppers.
In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants began flowing into the United States. They started combining Southern European flavor traditions with American ingredients.
It was in 1919 when the first mention of pepperoni occurred in New York City. During that time, pepperoni began to appear as toppings in a lot of Italian delis and pizzerias across Lower Manhattan.
Pepperoni as America’s Favorite Pizza Topping
Pizza in America is known to have descended from the gentle, light pizza of Naples where it came topped with cheese, anchovies, and mushroom. However, American pizza, helped by the most American of toppings eventually became the saucy, spicy beast it is now.
In print, pepperoni was first mentioned in the US Government’s Yearbook of Agriculture in 1894, and they called the popular pizza topping “a dry sausage”. According to Colin Caplan, a pizza scholar, historian, and author of New Haven Apizza, it was not until the First World War that the term pepperoni came into common use for sausage, and even that remained within Italian-American marketplaces.
In 1906, the great-grandfather of Darren Ezzo made some of that sausage at his grocery store located in Canastota, New York. Ezzo Sausage in Columbus today produces pepperoni for some of the country’s famous pizzerias such as ApizzaScholls in Portland Oregon and Emily in New York. However, during the late 70’s when the business opened in Columbus, pepperoni wasn’t popular yet. Instead, they created something called “sausage for pizza” which was made and sliced similar to the pepperoni we know today, but it does not include the drying step.
Based on Caplan’s research, pizza and pepperoni first collided in the middle of the century. The first evidence he found of pepperoni as a pizza topping came in 1950 from a photo of a wall menu at a pizzeria named The Spot in New Haven, Connecticut. Since then it began to trickle into toppings selections around the country. Before that, pepperoni would have been on menus but as an appetizer.
According to Scott Hinshaw, Domino’s Pizza Executive Vice President, pepperoni is an important topping to the business in the present time. When he was new in the pizza industry which was 35 years ago, he said that there was only about 30 percent of Domino’s pizzas that were ordered with pepperoni, but today, it’s now 50 percent.
During the early 80s, Ezzo’s began producing pepperoni in the current style which is made of ground pork and beef mixed with spices and then fermented and dried. Ezzo’swas the first to sell pepperoni pre-sliced and it was specifically made to be put on pizza.
Since then, pepperoni pizza became very popular and it eventually turn into America’s favorite pizza topping. In 2008, there was even a pepperoni pizza emoji that was designed by Ollie Wagner. He said that something about the red spots just looks so appealing.
How Pepperoni is Made and Served
Pepperoni is commonly a mixture of pork and beef. There are times that turkey meat is also used as a substitute but it should be labeled appropriately in the United States. Its reddish color is because of the curing using nitrates or nitrites reacting with heme in the myoglobin of the meat. It is cured to protect it against botulism and other forms of microbiological decay.
Aside from being a popular topping for pizza, pepperoni can also be served as an accompaniment to different types of cheeses as a cheap snack food you can find in convenience stores. Deep fried pepperoni served on its own usually with a honey mustard dip is also a common pub food in Nova Scotia.
There’s really no clear and exact explanation on why pepperoni gained favor as American’s favorite pizza topping. Maybe it’s because of its spicy, salty, and smoky combination or maybe the way it curls and collect delicious grease. But one thing’s for sure, when we think about pizza, unless you are a vegan fanatic like Lillian at Flapping Turtle, the image we usually imagine in our minds is a pepperoni pizza.