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Prosciutto – What Is It and Where Does It Come From

Prosciutto, actually prosciutto crudo (because there is also și prosciutto cotto, the ham variety obtained through thermal processing), is a dried meat specialty made from pork (or wild boar) and it’s been made ever since the times of the old Roman Republic. There is also written proof from that era (for example, in Cato’s De Agricoltura from the 2nd century) with specific mentions to prosciutto, along with technical instructions for preparing it.

In essence, then and now, prosciutto is all about a delicacy made from the hind legs of pigs, dried and cured. The name itself comes from Latin and it’s quite suggestive for the process: pro, meaning “before”, and exsuctus, which means “sucking out”. Basically, the meat is covered in salt and it is gradually compressed until all the excess moisture is eliminate (a process made with extreme care, in order to avoid breaking the bone inside). After about four months, the salt is rinsed and the meat is hung out to dry, a “ritual” that turns the raw meat into the truly delicious prosciutto in a time frame ranging from one to two years; that is why it is why good ventilation and proper humidity are critical for the space where the meat is curated. In the end, the piece of meat that hung for so long is best enjoyed in very thin slices (paper thin) that simply melt in your mouth.

But there are a couple of famous kinds of prosciutto crudo out there, each with its own special thing. For example, Prosciutto di Parma (possibly the most famous variety), when genuine, is made exclusively from a breed of large pigs, raised locally and fed in a very specific manner, including with whey from the locally produced cheese specialties. Then, Prosciutto crudo Toscano is famous for its special flavor, flavor obtained with the help of adding pepper, garlic, rosemary and juniper to the salt that covers the meat in the first phase of the process. In contrast, Prosciutto di San Daniele is covered with salt only, but more sparse and it simply has to be marine salt from that specific area.

The true beauty of this particular delicacy is that it can be enjoyed as such, but also in very versatile combinations, ranging from mozzarella to all sorts of fruit, so you might want to keep close a proper tool for slicing the delicious meat exactly as thin as you should.

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