Prosciutto is a dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked; this style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from smoked ham, prosciutto affumicato.
Personally, I am not as much of a Prosciutto lover as most, especially Giampiero. I have visited Villa where Proscittto is again in a back dark dry room. The best part is watching them taste it like a good bottle of aged wine. It’s very much a part of their cuisine, just as cheese and wine. It is Italian and for those who like it…they love it!
We visited the pig farms in Umbria with Matthew Evans from SBS TV in Australia, Matthew is the Gourmet Farmer and has a series on television in Australia. It is similar to Anthony Bourdain in the U.S.
Mathew pictured here from his TV show.
How is it made? Sorry vegetarians, this was difficult for me too!
After slaughter, the hind legs are cooled for 24 hours to firm up the meat, then trimmed into that distinctive, round-ended shape. They’re sent through a machine that compresses and massages the flesh a bit, helping force out the residual blood and opening up the muscle fibers.
Then comes the salt: the skin is sprayed with a salt solution, while the exposed meat is rubbed thoroughly with coarse Mediterranean sea salt.
After this prima sale (first salt), the legs sit in cold storage for 6-7 days, in a high-humidity room cooled to just above freezing, allowing the salt to penetrate.After “first salt,” each leg is brushed clean of salt, re-salted, and put in cold storage for another 15-18 days. At this point, each one has lost enough water to knock down its weight by around 4%.
The hams are hung and spend around three months in the “riposto” phase: resting. From here on out, they’re always kept hung, allowing air to circulate around them at all times; the hams slowly lose moisture as the meat “breathes.” Once they leave this room, their weight is reduced by another 8-10%. They are then tagged and hung out to dry for 19 months. (now you know why they are so expensive).
Quality control is paramount with any Denomination of Protected Origin product. But how do you test a ham without cutting the whole thing open?
By smell. Here, an inspector inserts a sharpened tool made of…horse bone. Why? Horse bones are porous in such a way that they pick up smells, but “lose” them within seconds. Thus, jab a ham, smell the bone, and you’ll get a whiff of what that ham smells like inside, but only for a few moments. Then the smell is gone and the bone’s ready to go again.
Inspectors test each ham at a few key points””near the bone, further away, and so on””smelling for any defects.
Then they are packed & shipped to their destination. Once there sliced then and there you have it delicious Proscuitto!
Below photos taken in Greve in Chianti.