Prosciutto di parma

Prosciutto di parma

Prosciutto di parma

Prosciutto di Parma

A quality product is rarely the result of a single night’s work. It’s carefully crafted over time, using standards that are almost (almost) impossibly high. By this definition, Prosciutto di Parma is the gold standard of Italian prosciutto and it has been for centuries: Parma ham has been crafted with the same painstaking care since Roman times. And it’s produced only in the province of Parma, Italy, whose regional idiosyncrasies make it possible to produce the highest quality hams using only four ingredients: specially-bred and fed Italian pigs, sea salt, air, and—the most important ingredient—time.

Quality that You Can Trace

Quality you can trace

Every leg of Prosciutto di Parma is 100 percent natural, with no additives or preservatives. It’s easily traceable through all stages of production and distinguished by the coveted Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status. Every leg is identified by its famous logo, the Ducal Crown, the final branding and last step in the identification process that not only guarantees the highest quality and authenticity, but leaves the “signature” of each operator. And we’re not just talking sentimental authenticity: marks on the pork legs indicate origin, processor’s identification, and the date curing began—visual evidence of a totally transparent quality-control system.

Natural from the Start

Parma hams are made from the rear haunches of castrated male Landrace and Duroc pigs bred in north-central Italy, specifically for Prosciutto di Parma production. To qualify for Parma ham production, the pigs must be born and raised according to strict guidelines on approved farms in 10 regions of northern and central Italy. Their feed, too, is specially formulated (you are what you eat eats, after all). The pigs are fed a blend of cereal grains and whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production, which contributes to their full-bodied, complex flavor. There are currently 5,400 breeding farms in Parma, all of which are acknowledged and classified by the Instituto Parma Qualita (I.P.Q.). Pigs have to live within the geographical boundaries of the Parma production area, to qualify for slaughter they must be nine months old and weigh a minimum of 340 pounds.

10 Steps to Perfection

Before slaughter, the pig must:

  • Be healthy
  • Be rested
  • Have fasted for 15 hours

2. Cooling

The insulated leg is put in special cold stores, where it stays for 24 hours. This cooling phase:

  • Lowers the leg temperature from 104°F to 32°F to maintain proper hygiene
  • Makes trimming easier

3. Trimming

Through trimming, some fat and skin are removed to give the ham its typical round “chicken leg” shape. In addition to aesthetics, trimming helps with the following salting phase. During the trimming phase, legs with even the smallest faults are discarded. With trimming, the leg loses 24 percent of its weight in fat and muscle.

Salting

4. Salting

Salt—the only preservative used in the production method—is crucial to the development of the Parma ham. The cooled and trimmed legs are sent from the slaughterhouses to the curing houses. (At this stage, it’s important that the legs have an adequate and uniform temperature, as a leg that is too cold doesn’t absorb enough salt, while a leg that is not cold enough may deteriorate.) Salting is carried out using both humid and dry salt: the skin is covered with humid salt, while the muscular pasts are covered with dry salt.

Legs are then put in a cold store at a temperature ranging from 34°F to 39°F, with a humidity level of approximately 80 percent. Legs stay in this store called “first salt” for six to seven days, after which residual salt is removed, and the legs are covered again with a thin coating of salt. Finally, the legs are put in another cold store called “second salt,” where they stay for 15 to 18 days, according to their weight. During this period, the leg slowly assimilates the salt and loses some humidity. At the end of the salting phase, the weight loss is approximately 3.5 to 4 percent.

5. Rest

Parma ham needs its beauty sleep. So after removing the residual salt, the legs are put to rest in stores (often aired) for 60 to 70 days at a humidity level of 75 percent and a temperature ranging from 34 °F to 41°F. During this phase, the ham has to “breathe” without becoming either too wet or too dry, all while the assimilated salt penetrates deeply and distributes uniformly inside the muscular mass. The weight loss during the rest phase amounts to approximately 8 percent to 10 percent.

6. Washing and Drying

What’s better after a long rest then a wash and dry? After resting, the Parma hams are washed with warm water to eliminate excess salt and impurities. The hams are then dried in natural conditions, taking in the sun, cool, dry air of the Parma region. (In Winter, when cold, wet, or humid conditions prevail, producers use special dryers.) This process lasts approximately one week.

Pre-curing

7. Pre-curing

The pre-curing phase is carried out in large rooms with windows on either side, with the hams hung on special wood frames called “scalere.” Windows aren’t just for the view. Airflow regulation is integral to the curing stage: windows are opened with regard the ratios of internal/external humidity and product humidity, allowing for a constant and gradual drying of the hams.

Pre-curing lasts about three months, after which the ham is beaten to improve its round “chicken leg” shape. Sometimes the cavity around the bare part of the bone is covered with pepper in order to keep the contact area dry. Weight loss during this phase amounts to about 8 percent to 10 percent.

8. Greasing

In the “greasing” phase, the cavity around the bare part of the bone, the uncovered muscular mass, and possible chaps are covered in a mixture of lard, salt, and pepper (and sometimes ground rice). This softens the superficial muscular layers to prevent the external layers drying too rapidly; it also allows for further humidity loss.

Curing

9. Curing

In the seventh month of its development, the ham is transferred to the “cellars,” rooms with less air and light where the sounding, an essential phase in the “ham life” is carried out. A horse bone needle, which rapidly absorbs fragrances, is inserted in different parts of the ham and smelled by experts to verify the development final product.

10. Branding

By the end of the ageing period (a minimum of 12 months), the ham has lost most of its initial weight (about 28 percent) and acquired its inviting and delicate aroma. Only then are the Parma hams ready for the official stamp of certification: the fire-branding with the Ducal Crown.

Branding

Since the fire branding is the final guarantee that all the processing stages have been carried out correctly, the officers of the independent certifying body, the Istituto Parma Qualita (I.P.Q.) have to be on hand for the branding. The officers check the aging period from the registers and the seal on the ham and they ensure that the hams have conformed to all the processing procedures. Finally, they test each ham with the horse bone needle and issue a quality judgment based on the appearance, color, and aroma of the final product.

The Fine Art of Traditional Hand Slicing of Prosciutto di Parma

When hand slicing Prosciutto di Parma, it’s best to begin the cut near the hock of the prosciutto (a). The cuts must be parallel, following the lines indicated from the arrows so as to always leave a flat surface, with minimal irregularities. As you get close to the femoral bone (b) the leg is turned along the bone. Proceed to slice in the same direction, away from the hock, working toward the bone (c) following the same method. The area near the hip (d) is easily removed with a short knife.

Hand Slicing

Before every cut (by machine or knife) it is necessary to remove the skin near the point of the cut. Hand slicing is a difficult art, but it reinforces the ancient roots of Prosciutto di Parma. Not only does it provides a different eating experience than the paper thin slices created by a machine; the ritual of hand slicing allows you to appreciate the centuries of tradition behind Parma ham, bringing a taste of history to the product’s rich, natural savor. The slices cut from the knife follow the natural disposition of the ham’s fibers, their irregularity adding to various sensations to the palate. A good slicing knife has a sharp, long blade that is wide and thick, moderately flexible to adapt itself to the variations of the form of the prosciutto.

Purchasing

Prosciutto di Parma is typically sold as a boneless leg aged 14 to 30 months. It may also be sold bone-in or pre-sliced and packaged. A typical boneless leg weighs between 15 and 17 pounds and will yield an 85 to 90 percent servable portion. With a typical portion of 1 ounce (equivalent to 2 slices), a 15 pound leg will serve over 200 (very happy) guests.

Storage and Handling

A vacuum-packed leg can be stored up to six months, refrigerated 40°F to 45°F. Once the vacuum seal is broken and slicing begins, the ham will keep refrigerated for up to one month. Freezing is not recommended. But it’s likely the prosciutto will be eaten well before storage is required.

A complete guide to Parma Ham

Prosciutto di Parma, which translates from Italian as Parma Ham, is one of the finest hams in the world. When thinly sliced – which is how it’s most commonly bought and served – the dry-cured ham is characterised by its warm pink colour and sliver of creamy fat running down one side. The meat is silky and melt-in-the-mouth, and the flavour is unbeatable: deliciously savoury with hints of sweetness and salt.

Parma Ham (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

When buying Parma Ham, you’re always guaranteed a premium and artisan product. It’s a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) food which means it’s entirely produced in a certain place that gives it unique properties. In this case, the clue is in the name: Parma. More specifically, in the hills surrounding the town of Parma in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy.

In fact, air-cured ham has been made in this area since at least 100 BC. Cato the Censor recorded the preservation of pig legs through a process of salting, drying, and greasing with a little oil. It’s very similar to the process today which is overseen by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. The Consorzio checks every single Parma Ham and ensures the production and final result are up to standard before being branded with the certification trademark, the Ducal Crown.

Parma Ham Ducal Crown branding (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma usually has a delicate aroma and flavour so it’s delightful on its own with a glass of sparkling wine or as part of an antipasti selection. Depending on what you’re after, hams aged beyond the minimum of a year will also take on a more complex and concentrated profile.

But it’s also an incredibly versatile ingredient to cook with, perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. Drape over fried eggs, stuff in a decadent toastie or mix into creamy pasta. It’s particularly great in warming wintry or festive dishes: bake into palmiers and serve as Christmas canapés or sprinkle baked and crumbled Parma Ham over roasted sprouts.

How is Parma Ham made?

Prosciutto di Parma has to be made in a certain way to receive the official stamp of approval from the Consortium. But this doesn’t mean that every leg of ham tastes the same – of course, every pig from which the meat comes is unique and will add its own very subtle flavour profile. Plus the longer it’s aged, the more complex the flavour.

There are only four ingredients that go into making Parma Ham: Italian pork, air, salt and time. But the proper process using artisan techniques is a painstaking one.

Salting a leg of ham (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

The pigs used are Large White, Landrace and Duroc – either purebred or a breed that's registered in the Italian Herd Book. Parma Ham producers receive fresh legs (the rear haunches of the pig), which weigh an average of 15kg (33lbs), from authorised abattoirs. Then salt is added into the mix. The salt master, or maestro salatore, salts the meat which is then refrigerated for a week. It’s given a thin second layer of salt which is absorbed over 15 to 18 days.

Then comes air and time. The legs are hung in humidity-controlled rooms for 60 to 90 days, then washed of excess salt or impurities. After a few days in drying rooms, they’re hung on frames in well-ventilated rooms. The next three months are critical to the development of the ham’s unique flavour. At the end of this period, they’re covered in a mix of lard and salt to prevent the external layers of the ham from drying out.

Hanging legs of Parma Ham (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

For the final stage of curing, the legs of ham are hung in cellar-like rooms with less air and light. The total ageing period must last, by law, for a minimum of a year. But this labour-intensive process is still not over. Each leg of ham is checked for quality by inserting a needle into five points of the ham and smelling for the right maturity. If it passes muster, the ham is branded with the five-point Ducal Crown which also shows the producer’s identification code allowing for full traceability.

Branding a Parma Ham leg (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

Is Parma Ham healthy?

Parma Ham is high in protein and free amino acids, giving it a high overall digestibility. It’s also very rich in oleic acid, a healthy monosaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Slivers of Parma Ham contain many vitamins and minerals: namely B1, B6, B12 and PP (also known as Niacin and a form of B3) plus phosphorus, zinc, iron and selenium.

It’s also notable what Parma Ham doesn’t contain. According to the Consortium’s strict regulations, colouring agents or preservatives such as nitrites and nitrates aren’t allowed in production.

How to buy Parma Ham

When buying Prosciutto di Parma, look for the Ducal Crown stamp on the packaging to ensure you’re getting the real deal.

Parma Ham hanging (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

You’ll most likely buy the ham ready-sliced in packets from the supermarket. Or support your local deli, especially over Christmas, who may have boneless joints and slice to order.

Generally, packs of pre-sliced Parma Ham from supermarkets would have been aged for 18–20 months but you may be able to find ham aged for longer, around 30–32 months, in specialist delis.

How to store Parma Ham

Always store pre-sliced packages in the refrigerator and once opened, re-wrap anything unused well to prevent it drying out and consume within three days. And one hugely important thing: remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so it comes up to room temperature. Too cold and all those delicate flavours won’t come through as well.

Parma Ham recipes

If you’re looking for an easy, chic snack, you can’t go wrong with enjoying a few slivers of Parma Ham by itself. It pairs beautifully with a glass of sparkling or fruity white wine. Or serve as part of an antipasti board with bread and fresh fruit such as melon or figs – the easiest way to add a special touch to evening drinks, especially at times like Christmas when there’s often lots else going on in the kitchen.

Parma Ham antipasti (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma’s delicate sweet-savoury-salty flavour also complements other ingredients and brings a unique profile to dishes. Parma Ham’s versatility means it can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

At breakfast or brunch, it’s the perfect accompaniment for eggs. Or how about stuffed into an oozy, cheesy ploughman’s-inspired toastie?

Parma Ham ploughman
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

For something more hearty, mix slices of Parma Ham into a creamy pasta bake. We also love the salty, meaty accent that Prosciutto di Parma crumbs bring to this Brussels sprouts recipe, perfect for the festive season and beyond.

Parma Ham and fennel pasta bake (Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma)
Image courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

Lead image: Courtesy of Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

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Prosciutto di Parma DOP

Prosciutto di Parma DOP

At Eataly, we love prosciutto crudo. Each impossibly thin slice of cured pork packs an abundance of salty and satisfying flavor that varies depending on how (and where) it’s made. After visiting different prosciuttifici across Italy, our buyers chose to offer Prosciutto di Parma DOP in our markets.

WHAT IS PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA?

Like many Italian foods, all prosciutto crudo does not taste the same, thanks to regional biodiversity and culinary customs. Prosciutto di Parma is a specific variety of cured pork made according to certain traditions.

In Parma, a town in the heart of Emilia-Romagna, making prosciutto is part of an age-old tradition passed on from generation to generation. In fact, prosciutto di Parma dates back thousands of years to Roman times, when, in 100 BCE, Cato the “Censor” first mentioned the extraordinary taste of the air-cured ham made around the town of Parma, Italy. In order to make their prized meat last longer, villagers would hang it up to dry, covering it in salt and oil to prevent spoilage.

HOW IS PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA MADE?

To make this variety of prosciutto, producers must follow strict legal guidelines which are closely monitored by the Consorzio di Prosciutto di Parma. The time-honored methods are 100% natural: no additives, just sea salt, air, and time.

PORK
Prosciutto di Parma can only be produced from the hind legs of specially selected heritage breed pigs raised in the 11 approved regions of Italy. Left to freely roam the farms, the pigs are fed a wholesome diet of natural forage and leftover whey from the production of Parmigiano Reggiano. This unique diet imparts a sweet and nutty flavor on the meat.

SALT
The legs are salted by hand by a maestro salatore, or «salt master,» then left to rest at cool temperatures for one week. After that, the meat is salted a second time and left to set for another two weeks. Next. the salted pork is hung in refrigerated, humidity-controlled rooms between 60 to 90 days. This ensures that the meat properly absorbs the salt. After the proper amount of time, the hams are washed and brushed before moving on to the curing process.

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prosciutto di parma salting process

Prosciutto di Parma aging process

Prosciutto di Parma leg being branded

TIME
Once dry, the legs are hung on wooden frames in well-ventilated rooms, with natural breezes from the outside. The aging of the pork may only be done in a controlled zone around Parma, in particular, the area of Langhirano. Here the air is dry with aromatic breezes from the surrounding Apennine mountains, which is why prosciutto di Parma tastes different from other types of cured ham!

FAT
After the initial curing, the legs are smeared with a mixture of lard, salt, and pepper to help the meat from drying out too quickly. They are then hung back up in dark cellars and cured for at least 14 months, although some producers may age them as long as 36 months.

INSPECTION
After the right amount of time has passed, a knowledgable inspector pieces the jam with a thin needle. He or she will smell each puncture to check for aromas that may indicate a flaw. If the prosciutto passes the test, it is branded with a special symbol: a five-point «Ducal Crown» with the word «Parma» written inside. This symbol is how you know if the Prosciutto di Parma is guaranteed authentic!

To learn more about how its made, visit the Consorzio di Prosciutto di Parma DOP website!

WHAT DOES PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA TASTE LIKE?

Called the «King of Hams,» the resulting Prosciutto di Parma yields delicate, sweet flavors in every bite. Excellent on its own, Prosciutto di Parma pairs well with rustic bread, juicy melon, and creamy mozzarella. Check out our pairing guide for ideas on how to serve the savory product.

Prosciutto and melon

Ready to try Prosciutto di Parma? Taste and pair it for yourself at at your local Eataly!

Prosciutto di Parma DOP

Prosciutto di Parma DOP foto-1

Il Prosciutto di Parma DOP è un prodotto di salumeria, crudo e stagionato, ottenuto dalla lavorazione delle cosce fresche di suini di razze iscritte nel Libro Genealogico Italiano.

Zona di produzione

La zona di produzione e di lavorazione del Prosciutto di Parma DOP comprende parte del territorio della provincia di Parma, nella regione Emilia-Romagna. I suini utilizzati sono nati e allevati nelle regioni Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardia, Piemonte, Molise, Umbria, Toscana, Marche, Abruzzo e Lazio.

Metodo di produzione

I suini utilizzati devono avere almeno nove mesi di età e un peso medio di 160 kg. Dopo la macellazione, le cosce vengono raffreddate per un intero giorno, quindi rifilate per conferire la caratteristica forma tondeggiante a “coscia di pollo”, favorendo così anche la salagione, per la quale si utilizza esclusivamente sale marino, senza aggiungere conservanti o additivi. Le cosce sono sottoposte ad una leggera seconda salagione e rimangono nelle celle di sale per un periodo complessivo di un mese. Eliminato il sale residuo, le cosce vengono riposte per un periodo di 60-90 giorni in celle di riposo, a temperatura e umidità idonee. Il prosciutto viene quindi lavato in acqua tiepida per togliere tutte le impurità. Durante la fase della pre-stagionatura, i prosciutti vengono appesi alle tradizionali “scalere” e fatti asciugare per 6-7 mesi, in stanzoni con finestre contrapposte aperte a seconda delle condizioni climatiche sia interne che esterne. Al sesto mese la parte muscolare scoperta è poi ammorbidita con uno strato sottile di sugna, un impasto di grasso di maiale, sale e pepe. Al settimo mese, i prosciutti sono trasferiti in cantina per la stagionatura. Trascorsi 12 mesi dall’inizio della lavorazione, gli ispettori dell’ente certificatore effettuano le operazioni di sondaggio, un esame olfattivo effettuato con un ago di osso di cavallo. A questo punto sui prosciutti ritenuti idonei, viene apposto il marchio a fuoco “Corona Ducale”.

Aspetto e sapore

Il Prosciutto di Parma DOP ha forma tondeggiante ed è privo del piedino. Al taglio, la fetta si presenta rosa nella parte magra e bianca nella parte grassa. Il sapore è delicato e dolce, l’aroma è fragrante.

Storia

Il Prosciutto di Parma DOP vanta origini antichissime. Le prime testimonianze sulla lavorazione dei prosciutti nel territorio parmense risalgono a Catone nel II secolo a.C. A partire dall’anno Mille, il prosciutto acquisisce sempre maggiore importanza. Tra il Duecento e il Trecento si forma a Parma la Corporazione dei Beccai, che si occupava della produzione della carne suina, che conobbe una scissione nel 1459, quando i Lardaioli, coloro che ammazzavano il maiale e ne salavano le carni, decisero di costituire una corporazione a sé.

Gastronomia

Il Prosciutto di Parma DOP, intero o con l’osso, si può conservare per un anno appeso in locali con temperatura da 17 a 20°C. Il prodotto disossato e confezionato si mantiene almeno fino a 6 mesi, purché conservato in un ambiente refrigerato, a temperatura non superiore a 10°C. A fette molto sottili, il Prosciutto di Parma DOP si gusta da solo o accompagnato dal pane o dalla tradizionale «torta fritta» parmigiana. Si abbina con frutta come melone o fichi.

Commercializzazione

Il prodotto è immesso in commercio nella tipologia Prosciutto di Parma DOP. È commercializzato intero, disossato, a tranci o affettato, sfuso oppure confezionato in atmosfera modificata o sottovuoto.

Nota distintiva

Il Prosciutto di Parma DOP è completamente naturale: solo carne di suino italiana lavorata con sale marino. Viene prodotto esclusivamente in una zona delimitata della provincia di Parma dove ci sono le condizioni climatiche ideali per la stagionatura, durante la quale acquisirà peculiari caratteristiche quali la dolcezza e il gusto.

The Best Way to Eat Prosciutto and How Prosciutto di Parma is Made

Prosciutto di Parma DOP in a factory

In June, Mum and I were able to check a culinary wish off our bucket list: visiting a prosciutto factory near Parma.

Our current trip itinerary

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I won a trip to Venice with Valdo Prosecco. We then went to Sirmione sul Garda for a night, then onto delicious Ferrara. Our next stop was Parma where we had a wonderful tour of the city, and then a Verdi tour with Food Valley. My last post was all about culatello and Antica Corte Pallavicina which brings us to our Prosciutto di Parma tour.

Culatello and other cured meats and Parmigiano

Culatello, Prosciutto, salame, Parmigiano and more.

My mother and I were hosted for a tour of Cavalier Umberto Boschi (this is done regularly for the public, from time to time). We were given a few samples of Prosciutto di Parma DOP along with aprons. However, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

I’ll take you on the tour first, then we’ll get to the best way to eat prosciutto.

Driving to Felino

Mum and I (reluctantly) checked out of Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati on our third day in Parma. We were driving to a prosciutto factory about 40 minutes outside of Parma for a tour. If we could have, we would also have gone to visit a Parmigiano maker. However, we simply couldn’t fit everything in during our short stay.

Cavalier Umberto Boschi Prosciutto

The drive to Felino was through beautiful Italian countryside. I couldn’t believe that we passed right by the MUTTI factory; it was a good thing I didn’t crash! This is my favorite brand of tomatoes so we called to ask about a tour, but they required reservations to be made by a previous arrangement. Such a bummer!

Prosciutto making area of Italy

This is the view from the prosciutto factory parking lot!

Chiara, from the Prosciutto Consortium, was waiting for us once we arrived at Cavalier Umberto Boschi. This is the name of the prosciutto maker we were visiting. She took us inside where we met Lorenzo Boschi, the manager of the facility and son of Umberto Boschi. Lorenzo had us “suit up” with hair nets, booties and cover ups, as he was going to be our tour guide.

Before we get to the tour and the best way to eat prosciutto, I want to give you some background on why many of the foods from Italy are of such incredibly high quality. I’ve discussed this before, but there’s a good chance you didn’t see one of these posts. For example, when I discussed Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and Valdo Prosecco DOC. These products are held under the strictest requirements by the EU.

From the Prosciutto Consortium’s website:

The Consorzio and the Protected Designation of Origin

“The tradition of Parma Ham is safeguarded by the Consorzio and reflected in the coveted Protected Designation of Origin status, the E.U.’s guarantee of quality and authenticity for those traditional products that are from a specific geographical region. Indeed Parma Ham can only be produced in the hills near Parma and all authorized producers must be located inside this area.”

Parma logo on a prosciutto

This means that when you buy Prosciutto with the Parma and crown logo stamp, you are guaranteed that it is the authentic and geniune product. It has been made within the area allowed, and according to all the standards that are required. And believe me, the rules and regulations are many; it’s truly impressive. If you want to learn how to eat prosciutto, scroll down.

Please note, due to the lighting inside the factory, the color of many of the photos is a bit “off”.

Prosciutto Factory Tour

There are 10 stages in the process of making prosciutti. We didn’t see the first three because the first is the butchering of a certain quality of pig from central Northern Italy. The pigs have to be over 9 months old, about 160kg (no less than 144kg) and not have eaten for 15 hours. The legs are then separated to become proscuitto.

Stage 2 is the cooling process. The legs are left for 24 hours to cool so they are easier to trim. The next stage is the trimming of some fat and skin to give the Parma ham its recognizable “drumstick” shape.

First step in making prosciutto

Salting the pork legs

The pork legs arrive from different locations within Italy and weigh about 15 kg. Only the hind legs are used to make Prosciutto di Parma. The fourth stage in the prosciutto making process is for the pork to go through a salting machine.

Salting the pork

As soon as the legs come out, more salt is added by a professional (master “salatore”) who knows exactly how and where to add the salt in places that the machine misses.

Refrigeration/Resting

They are then taken to be refrigerated for about a week. This is the fifth stage of the process.

Prosciutto makingFreshly salted pork legs. Refrigerated pork legs to make prosciuttoRefrigerated pork legs to make prosciutto.

Washing and drying.

Stage 6. After a week, the hams are washed to remove excess salt and impurities. The legs dry naturally unless it’s cold, wet or humid and then special dryers are used.

Pre-curing.

Stage 7. A second light coating of salt is given to the hams after residual salt has been removed. Note: not all of the legs become Prosciutto di Parma, DOP. Next, the hams hang in specially controlled rooms for almost 3 months. Airflow is critical during this phase. Weight loss during this time is about 8-10%.

prosciutto tour

Greasing with lard and the second cure.

Stage 8. Once the hams leave this room, the hardened part of the ham is covered with a coating of lard, salt and pepper. This prevents the outside part of the leg from drying too quickly.

After this, the hams are moved to larger cellar rooms that are “room temperature”, which is well-ventilated. The air from the local area cures the meat to give it the flavor for which it is renowned. This is why Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in this region, due to the very unique conditions. This is also where Mum and I were so excited to see the incredible “sea of hanging hams”!

Drying prosciutti

The final cure.

Stage 9. They are then placed in their final destination before become official Prosciutto di Parma hams. This is a darker, cellar like room where they will cure for a minimum of 12 months to 3 years.

Drying prosciutti

lard coated prosciutto

Can you tell that my mother was happy to be here? Coincidentally, my brother gave my mother an entire Prosciutto di Parma for her birthday the month before. We had no idea then that we’d even be visiting Parma!

Mum in the prosciutto factory

Mum with prosciutto

Prosciutti curing

Lorenzo Boschi with his prosciutti

Lorenzo Boschi with his prosciutti

Prosciutto curing

Quality control check and branding.

The 10th and final stage at the end of the yearlong curing process is done by an inspector. He/she must do a quality control check on the prosciutti. A horse bone needle is inserted into five specific places in the ham, and the inspector smells each point. Horse bone is used because it absorbs a scent, but loses it immediately. Lorenzo demonstrated this for us and you can see it in the video below.

Prosciutto di Parma, DOP

Only after it passes inspection is the second and final stamp with the 5 point ducal crown given to the ham. This assures the buyer that it is in fact, Prosciutto di Parma, DOP. Only a qualified inspector from the Istituto Parma Qualità can give the brand stamp of approval.

Christina, Lorenzo and Lidia (Christina

We’re stylin’! Anything for Prosciutto di Parma!

Now, let’s get to the other part of this post

How to eat Prosciutto di Parma.

This is simply my opinion, but given what you’ve just seen in the process of making this incredible culinary creation, how would you think the best way to enjoy it would be? For me and many others, it is simply as is. In fact, in Parma, we were told that picking it up with your fingers and having the heat of your hands on the meat enhances the flavor. So put that knife and fork down; that’s not how to eat prosciutto!

Prosciutto di Parma DOP best way to eat prosciutto

Others might answer how to eat prosciutto, or the best way to eat it is in a sandwich, cooked in their favorite dish, on pizza and who am I to say they’re wrong? I just think you want to taste all that it has to offer, along with some bread, cheese and a nice glass of wine, right?

Maybe a simple dish where the flavor of the prosciutto is allowed to shine. RECIPE HERE.

Focaccia with burrata and prosciutto

What is your favorite or best way to eat prosciutto? Let me know in the comments below.

Learn more

For a brilliant little video on how prosciutto is made, you can watch HERE (only 2 1/2 minutes).

To see my visit with my mother, and a much less professional video quality (since it is from my Instagram story!) watch HERE (about 2 minutes).

To find out more about Prosciutto di Parma DOP, visit the website HERE, and remember to look for the crown logo to be sure you’re buying the genuine product.

For more information on prosciutto and salami maker, Cavalier Umberto Boschi, click HERE.

Cavalier Umberto Boschi best way to eat prosciutto

You can also discover more about the Emilia Romagna Region by visiting In Emilia Romagna HERE.

GRAZIE!

Many thanks to Chiara for arranging the visit and joining us at the factory, and for the delicious packets of prosciutto! We enjoyed them with our family! Much appreciation to Lorenzo from Cavalier Umberto Boschi for taking time out of his busy day to give us such an educational tour. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

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