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What Is... Prosciutto?

Prosciutto is…

‘HAM’.

Simply, Prosciutto means ‘HAM’ in Italian. The word has come to describe the salty, pink and thinly sliced Charcuterie, beloved around the world.

Is all ‘Prosciutto’ the same?

Luckily for us – No. Typically, there are two types of Prosciutto.

  1. Prosciutto Crudo – UNCOOKED, YET CURED
  2. Prosciutto Cotto – CURED AND COOKED

If you are picturing ‘Prosciutto’ adorning a platter as you bask in the Italian sunshine, you are probably envisioning Prosciutto Crudo… so, let’s run with that.

Most regions in Italy have their own variation of Prosciutto. Globally, the most common and best known are Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Other World Charcuterie Awards suggestions are Prosciutto di Carpegna, Prosciutto di Norcia and Prosciutto di Modena with each cure offering its own particular flavour.

What does it look and taste like?

Prosciutto is extremely flavourful, a balance of delicately sweet yet salty. Generally, it has a pink to brownish red colour depending on how long the meat has been aged. The drier and darker the colour, the more concentrated and intense the flavour. Each slice is streaked with fat which melts on the tongue.

Some varieties maybe cured with spices or herbs. The delicately flavoured Prosciutto di Vallee d’Aoste traditionally adds sage, rosemary juniper thyme and bay leaf to give its unique fragrance and taste.

How do you make Prosciutto?

The process of curing Prosciutto dates back to pre-Roman times. In Italy, the home of Prosciutto, villagers originally dry-cured pork legs to extend their much-needed meat supply in the long winter months. Rest assured, they are experts.

The process is simple enough…

  • Cover the meat in salt and leave to rest for a few weeks.
  • Salt draws out blood and moisture, ultimately preventing bacteria from “eating” the meat. Salting not only preserves the meat but, over time, brings out the flavour allowing it to develop its true deep “haminess”.
  • Wash the pork legs and season by hand, the ingredients will depend on recipe and/or region.
  • Leave to dry-age at a controlled temperature for a minimum of 14-36 months.

Prosciutto needs salt, air and time to get its unique flavour and texture. You can’t rush a masterpiece!

Do other countries produce Prosciutto?

Since ‘Prosciutto’ translates to ham, the obvious answer here is…yes.

Other countries produce dry cured ham often similar in texture and taste to the Italian offerings.

  • SPAINJamón is the spanish word for ham, and several Spanish variations are extremely popular – Jamón Serrano, Jamón Iberico, and Jamón Iberico de Bellota to name a few.
  • FRANCEJambon de Bayonne is perhaps the most popular French variety of dry, cured ham however they have a wide variety of options depending on region. Bayonne’s offering is often called ‘French Prosciutto’, notably it is cured for only 9-12 months which is significantly less than its Italian counterpart.
  • CHINAJinhua Ham dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and is often used to season stocks and broths in China.
  • MONTENEGRO/BOSNIA/SLOVENIA/HERZEGOVINAPršut is a dry cured ham which has a similar texture and taste to Italian Prosciutto.

What is the best way to eat Prosciutto?

Whether your ham of choice is from Italy, China, France, Spain or even Portugal, serve it in paper thin slices. To best appreciate its flavour, serve it at room temperature.
Simply place a piece in your mouth and let the fat melt on your tongue and coat the palette as you savour the leaner parts of the meat with its sweet, salty and full flavour!

It also pairs beautifully with:

  • Fruit – try it with a fresh pear.
  • Bread – a grissini (or breadstick) is very popular.
  • Cheese – mozzarella complements the salty flavours well.
  • Wine – white wine is generally suggested as it has a lighter body allowing the charcuterie to shine.

Have you heard of Prosciutto’s more refined older sibling…Culatello?

Try these Prosciutto Recipes...

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