Mortadella di Prato

Mortadella di Prato is produced in the municipality of Prato. The main characteristic of Mortadella di Prato is the use of liqueur Alchermes, which is prepared by infusing alcohol with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla, and other herbs and flavoring agents. Its scarlet color is obtained by the addition of Kermes, a small insect from which the drink derives its name. The sausage has a penetrating spicy aroma between the hot and pungent, and delicate flavor of the alchermes.

Pork shoulder, lean5001.10 lb
Pork jowls, pork belly350 g0.77 lb
Back fat150 g0.33 lb
Ingredients per 1000g (1 kg) of meat
Sea salt18 g3 tsp
Sugar5.0 g1 tsp
Pepper3.0 g1-1/2 tsp
Peppercorns, whole2.0 g1 tsp
Coriander2.0 g1 tsp
Cinnamon1.0 g1/2 tsp
Nutmeg1.0 g1/2 tsp
Mace0.5 g1/4 tsp
Cloves, ground0.3 g1/8 tsp
Garlic3.0 g1 clove
Red wine30 ml1 oz fl
Water30 ml1 oz fl
Alchermes liquor *6 ml1 tsp
  1. Dice back fat into 1/4” (6 mm) cubes.
  2. Grind all meats through 1/4” (6 mm) plate. Using food processor emulsify ground pork with wine, water, Alchermes and all ingredients (except diced fat cubes and whole peppercorns). Mix emulsified meat with cubed fat and whole peppercorns.
  3. Stuff into 70-80 mm diameter beef casings.
  4. Cook sausages in water at 80° C (176 °F) until meat reaches 67-70° C (152-158°F) internal temperature. Cool and refrigerate.

Mortadella di Prato was awarded PGI certificate of origin on September 2, 2016.
Mortadella di Prato PGI is Italian sausage made from pork, sea salt, garlic, spices and alchermes liquor which gives the sausage its characteristic character. The product must have the following properties when released for consumption: weight: between 0.5 and 10 kg; shape: cylindrical and slightly elliptic; length: between 8 and 70 cm; diameter between 6 and 35 cm. The texture of the sausage is firm, the internal color dark pink owing to the coloring action of the alchermes, with visible white cubes of fat. The sausage has a penetrating spicy aroma between the hot and pungent, and delicate flavor of the alchermes.

* Alchermes is a sweet, alcoholic drink made from the infusion of diverse herbs and spices such as carnation, orange, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and coriander. The red color also gives alchermes its name; 'alquermes' in Spanish from the Arabic 'quirmiz' or scarlet. Cochineal is a product of the Americas, but a different set of insects was used to dye fabric as well as one notable drink long before Columbus. Kermes is a coloring that was made from the crushed scale insect Kermes vermilio, which feeds on the sap of Mediterranean oak trees and from which the drink derives its name. The dye was used to color silk, and that silk was infused into a liqueur called alkermes (or alchermes), along with apple juice, rose water, ambergris, gold flakes, crushed pearls, aloe, and other ingredients. This liqueur recipe dates back to at least 800 A.D. when liqueurs and medicine were one and the same. Alchermes has been used for centuries to dye woven fabrics, traditionally the main economic activity around the gore (canals) of the city and district of Prato. Prato’s considerable familiarity with cochineal has given rise to great versatility in its use as a coloring in textiles and in food and medicinal products. In particular, it has been kept alive in the culinary use of alchermes in products ranging from meat products to local pastries (‘pesche di Prato’). This, together with the fact that producers in Prato have managed to preserve traditional production methods, has enhanced the reputation of ‘Mortadella di Prato’, which is beyond doubt and substantiated by extensive documentation. Today, versions of alkermes liqueur are still produced, specifically to make the traditional Italian red dessert zuppa inglese. These liqueurs are no longer colored with kermes bugs: Some makers use cochineal; others use artificial coloring. It’s doubtful that any still include crushed pearls and gold flakes.

The geographical area of production

The area in which ‘Mortadella di Prato’ is produced and packaged comprises the entire territory of the municipality of Prato and the municipalities of Agliana, Quarrata and Montale in the Province of Pistoia. The Prato area is characterized by a rational use of water from the river that crosses it, the Bisenzio, and other streams. The need to reclaim the broad and fertile flood plain and the notion of being able to exploit its water to produce energy to operate both mills and textile machinery arose in the 12th century and led to the building of the so-called gore, a large network of artificial canals that cross the Prato plain, extending to the neighboring municipalities of Agliana, Quarrata and Montale situated in the Province of Pistoia. In addition to supplying energy, the gore and streams also allowed the development from medieval times of the Arte dei Beccai (butchers’ guild), which, for hygiene reasons, required large quantities of running water, something which it had in common with the profession of dyers. It was at that time that the processing and use of pig meat was established. It enjoyed particular renown and was an important element of the economy, representing the main food source during the winter months. Every peasant family reared their own pigs, while well-off city dwellers made use of the system of agistment, which involved entrusting animals to peasants for fattening, with the agreement that they should do ‘half of what God does’. The particular configuration of waterways in the area of Prato favored the traditional proximity between the ancient dyers’ profession, to which the first use of cochineal is ascribed, and that of ‘salsicciari’ (sausage makers), who went on to use the celebrated ‘grana de tintore’ as a coloring and flavoring, including in sausages.

The reputation of ‘Mortadella di Prato’ is based primarily on the use of alchermes, which gives rise to a contrast between its sweet and delicate flavors and the hot and pungent flavor of the spices, garlic and sea salt, giving the product organoleptic characteristics that are entirely original. The presence of alchermes as a distinctive ingredient of ‘Mortadella di Prato’ is a clear indicator of the Prato origin and exclusivity of the product.


The first documents concerning ‘Mortadella di Prato’ as a product originating in the city of Prato of which we are certain date back to 1733 to the time of the beatification of Catherine of Ricci, when the nuns of the Dominican Monastery of Prato prepared a lunch for the guests in which it featured as a local specialty. ‘Mortadella di Prato’ is later mentioned by this name in 1854 in correspondence between Cesare Guasti and Giovanni Pierallini, in articles in the newspaper ‘Lo Zenzero’ from 1862, and throughout the 19th century in various economic publications (‘L’Italia economica’ from 1868, ‘l’Italia all’opera’ from 1869), in reports drawn up in Italian, English and French for the International Exhibitions in London and Paris, and in a note written by a French Police Commissioner concerning the export of the product to France (1867), confirming the reputation it had gained. In particular, a report by an official of the International Exhibition of London states that ‘Mortadella di Prato and Mortadella di Bologna lend their name to the entire genre’. There are also numerous documented references to ‘Mortadella di Prato’ from the 20th century in a range of publications including local recipe books and the national daily press, as well as in national and international gastronomy, thus demonstrating a significant growth in its reputation. Its particular characteristics have meant that the product has been mentioned in many local, national and international cookery books and gastronomic guides, including in the first edition of the ‘Guida Gastronomica d’Italia’ of the Touring Club Italiano (1931). Its reputation is also linked to the interest in the product shown by leading chefs and well-known figures from the worlds of international culture and gastronomy, such as the writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. It has also been promoted as a true expression of the gastronomic tradition of Prato by associations such as the Accademia della cucina italiana (1987) and Slow Food, which has designated it as a protected food product since 2000. Since the 18th century, ‘Mortadella di Prato’ has been enjoyed with figs or in traditional cuisine as an ingredient in many local dishes, including ‘sedani alla pratese’ (Prato-style celery). The product regularly features in international fairs as well as in the ‘DiVini Profumi’ food and wine festival in Prato itself.


The meat must come from pigs weighing not less than 160 kg (+/- 10 %) and older than nine months at the time of slaughter. The interval between the slaughter of the pigs and the processing of the meat must not be less than 24 hours and not more than 96 hours. Feed for the pigs intended to be used to produce ‘Mortadella di Prato’ must take the form of a swill (wash or rinse out of a container by pouring large amounts of water or other liquid over or into it) or mash and have a dry matter content of not less than 45 %, up to a maximum of 80 kg live weight of the pigs, and not less than 55 % during the fattening period. The consumption of whey (a by-product of curds) and buttermilk (a by-product of butter processing should not exceed 15 liters per animal, per day).

Meat: Mortadella di Prato is made exclusively from the following cuts of meat, in the percentages indicated: shoulder: 40 - 50%; underskin fat: 9 - 15%; ham trimmings: 10 - 20%; neck: 5 - 15%; jowls: 5 - 15%; pork belly: 5 - 10%.
Ingredients: alchermes *: from 0.3 to 0.6 %; ground pepper: from 0.1 – 0.3 %; whole peppercorns: from 0.1 – 0.2 %; sea salt: from 2.0 - 3.0 %: ground spices (coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves): from 0.1 – 0.25 %; garlic: from 0.08 – 0.2 %; preservatives may be used as permitted by law; the addition of sodium glutamate is prohibited.
Processing: Meat and fat are manually cut into cubes and placed in refrigerator for 24 hours. After that, the meat is ground through 4 – 8 mm plate, then it is mixed with fat cubes, salt and spices. Lastly, alchemes liquor is poured in and the mixture is remixed. The mixture is stuffed into natural or synthetic casings. The stuffed casings are reinforced with hemp or cotton twine. Depending on a size the sausages are initially held for 1 – 3 days at 25 → 23° C (77 – 73° F), 60 – 65% humidity and then continue to be held at 20 → 18° C (68 – 64° F), 73 – 78% humidity. Then, the sausages are steamed or cooked in water until they reach 72° C (160° F) internal temperature. The sausages are cooled in water, them held in cool room until they 0-2° C (32 – 35° F) internal temperature, what must be accomplished within 24 – 48 hours.

‘Mortadella di Prato’ may be marketed whole, in pieces or in slices

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