The history of Sibiu Salami – the beginnings
The reason Sibiu salami is so closely linked to its geographical area of origin are historical. Indeed, its manufacturing process is a longstanding tradition, dating back to more than 100 years ago and continuing to this day. This tradition is specific to this geographical area and is based in turn on the particulars of the counties of origin mentioned here.
The history of the Sibiu salami includes definite evidence that its production started around the same time, in at least two different areas in Romania, Mediaș and the Prahova Valley (the town of Sinaia) area. The salami’s history closely trails the development of agriculture in these areas and is also linked to the apparition of groups of producers specializing in making this kind of sausage. In time, this contributed to the making of this salami spreading beyond the borders of the Mediaș – Sinaia area, as well as to this tradition also taking root in other places in the same area.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, a dry type of sausage called “winter salami” went into production at Mediaș. It soon became a very appreciated and sought-after commodity across all Transylvania. Evidence of the existence of sausage makers guilds and the production of winter salami can be found in N. Drăgan, The development of Industry in Mediaș between 1918 and 1944; the 3rd volume of Volter Wollman’s Pre-industrial and Industrial Heritage in Romania; the documents of the Evangelical Church or those exhibited in the Historical and Architectural Heritage, respectively in the Industrial Heritage of Sibiu.
Some of the sausage makers got themselves noticed thanks to the quality of their products, especially their winter salami (the future Sibiu salami), which became an industry benchmark. One of these producers was Jozsef Theil (1875-1932), who had owned a salami factory in Medias since the end of the 19th century. Capitalizing on the title of salami maker – an official certification –, Jozsef Theil made winter salami (later to become Sibiu salami), sausages and cured meat, meat-derived products, bacon, lard etc. in his workshop headquartered at 13 Badaraua street, which he had opened in 1895.
In 1922 he moved his factory to Sibiu, on Morilor street, under the “Theil & Co. A.G. Salami und Selchwarenfabrik“name. Showing a lot of skill and rigor, Theil managed to earn recognition and his enterprise shortly became a household name. His factory quickly became Transylvania’s preeminent salami maker, whose products were distributed under the “true Sibiu salami” name.
Theil’s factory took part almost annually in prestigious public shows that strengthened his renown. He had a showroom in every major city in the country. In the 1930s, his factory’s output capacity ballooned to 20 wagons of salami a year.
The available information shows that in the first years of the factory’s existence Jozsef Theil used manually-powered equipment and the sausages were smoked by slowly burning wet or freshly cut wood from the forests around Mediaș. From the very beginning, the casing of the salami was made only from the cleaned intestines harvested from animals slaughtered by the company.
Jozsef Theil’s factory continued to record strong growth. After successfully operating for over two decades, it eventually changed hands, but the Sibiu salami remained the cash cow of the business.
In 1919, Theil’s factory was bought by Fritz Auner. The “Fritz Auner” salami and canned food factory in Mediaș (the future Salconserv factory) made salami, canned meat, sausage and cured meat, various meat products, bacon, and lard. The dry sausages with casings covered in noble mold, similar to the types made in the Saxon villages around Mediaș, have been made there ever since the time of former owners Richard and Fritz Auner, but in small quantities, because of the complexity of the manufacturing process and the specific climate requirements for a superior, delicacy product.
The factory continued to put out the same product range it had been making since its earliest times, particularly the winter salami (the future Sibiu salami), which was its most sought-after product. In 1921, the factory was fitted with a refrigerator. Badly hit by the depression, the factory closed in 1929 but Auner reopened it in 1930.