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What is Prosciutto?

The Italian word for ham is prosciutto. In the United States, prosciutto refers to an uncooked, dry-cured ham, referred to as prosciutto crudo in Italian, and prosciutto cotto refers to baked ham. Prosciutto is a fatty cut of beef with a sweet meaty flavor, a delightful saltiness, and a buttery texture that melts on the tongue when thinly sliced.

Prosciutto

Prosciutto can be served with cheese and bread on a charcuterie board, but it can also be put with pasta or risotto. It should be added last minute because prolonged cooking may toughen it and ruin the delicate flavor. It can also be cooked for a few minutes to make prosciutto crisps to crumble over salads or pasta dishes.

What is Prosciutto?

The hind leg of a pig is used to make prosciutto. After cleaning, the leg is thoroughly salted with sea salt by a maestro Salvatore (salt-master) and stored in a cool, dry location for several weeks. The salting procedure evaporates any remaining moisture, making it impossible for germs to grow.

It also gives the dish a distinct flavor. The legs are then hung for 60 to 90 days in cool, humid environments. When the salt curing is finished, the leg is cleaned, the salt removed from the meat, and the ham is dried for 12 to 36 months in enormous buildings that capture and circulate breezes.

It is thought that the distinct flavor profiles of different Italian prosciutti crudo are due to the distinctive quality of the breezes where this drying process takes place.

The amount of time the prosciutto is left to mature and the salting and air drying have a significant effect. Young prosciutto has a beautiful reddish-pink color and a soft, moist texture with a sweet flavor. It gets drier and firmer as it ages, developing an orange veneer and a more refined, delicate, and complex flavor.

Taste 

Great prosciutto has a great mix of sweet and salty flavors, a rich yet refined porcine flavor, and a translucent texture that melts in your mouth, allowing a variety of taste experiences to emerge.

Types of Prosciutto

Here are seven different types of prosciutto:

  1. Prosciutto crudo: This air-dried, salt-cured ham is found in Italian delis throughout the European Union and the United States. This ham is favored for its lack of nitrates or artificial preservatives, and Butchers typically use sea salt during the curing process.
  2. Prosciutto cotto: Prosciutto cotto is prosciutto that is cooked instead of air-dried. This type of ham is low in sodium and may be sold in grocery stores and charcuteries as “deli-style ham.”
  3. Culatello: Culatello is prosciutto made from small pieces of the pig’s hind legs cured in red wine. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Some purists do not consider culatello to be true prosciutto as it cannot be served in the long, thin slices associated with the iconic meat.
  4. Prosciutto di San Daniele: This type of prosciutto is produced in the Frioul region of Italy. During the curing process, these hams are stacked on top of each other, sweetening the flavor and darkening the meat.
  5. Prosciutto Toscano: This type of prosciutto is produced in the Tuscany region of Italy. Some Tuscan butchers add pepper, garlic, rosemary, and juniper to the raw ham during the aging process, creating a drier, zestier final product.
  6. Prosciutto di Parma: Prosciutto di Parma, or Parma ham, can only be produced in the Parma region under the authority of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, and its packaging features the stamp of the Ducal Crown with the word “Parma” in the middle. The pigs raised for Parma ham are fed whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  7. Prosciutto di Modena DOP: This variety of prosciutto is made in the hills and valleys around the Panaro River basin. This includes charcuteries in the provinces of Bologna and Reggio Emilia.

How is Prosciutto Made?

Pork legs of superior grade are used to make prosciutto. The meat is salted and left to rest for several weeks. The salt pulls away blood and moisture during this period, preventing pathogens from entering the flesh (which is why we can eat it “raw”). The flavors of the meat become more concentrated when it is salted.
Following the salting process, the pork legs are washed, seasoned by hand (typically according to a family recipe), and dried at a controlled temperature for 14 to 36 months. Prosciutto’s sweet and delicate flavor comes from salt, air, and time.

Techniques for making prosciutto differ by location, producer, and consortia (refresh your Italian certification expertise here). Prosciutto di Parma DOP, for example, is manufactured only from heritage breed pigs raised in 11 Italian regions. From salting to maturing, the entire process must take place in Parma, where the air and environment give the meat a distinct flavor. Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP, on the other hand, is produced in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. The meat has a deeper and sweeter flavor due to the higher altitudes and distinct climate. Prosciutto di Modena, Prosciutto Toscano, and Prosciutto di Carpegna are among the various kinds available.

How to Cook Prosciutto?

The best technique to prepare prosciutto is to cook it as little as possible. Even on a commercial scale, Italian prosciutto crudo is an artisan product manufactured using a time-honored production process. It is best served raw with complimentary dishes like melon, slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or fresh figs.

While heating slices of salt-cured ham can cause them to dry out, spreading slices of prosciutto over a freshly baked pizza enriches the ham’s flavor without sacrificing its smooth consistency.

Prosciutto rinds and unlikable ends can be sliced and boiled into soups and stews to enhance flavor. These ends are frequently sold for a significantly lower price in prosciutto-slicing businesses.

How Healthy is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto

Prosciutto is a tasty method to supplement your diet with protein, vitamins, minerals, and flavor. Prosciutto has various health benefits, albeit it should be consumed in moderation.

  • Good source of vitamin B12 and iron to combat tiredness, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
  • Good content of B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12) – boosts energy levels and restores vitality.
  • Anti-anemia food thanks to B vitamins and iron content.
  • Source of vitamin B12 and cholesterol – protects the integrity of the myelin sheath coating around the tails of nerve cells, with benefits for the nervous system and motor function, as well as protects against early cognitive decline.
  • Prosciutto crudo is great brain food – it supports the intellectual effort and cognitive functions thanks to its fat content.
  • High in protein, it helps make neurotransmitters for the nervous system that help regulate mood, appetite, sleep, etc.

Where to Buy Prosciutto?

Prosciutto is now available with prepackaged deli meats in most well-stocked deli counters and supermarkets in the United States. If you want premium prosciutto, you should acquire it freshly sliced from a shop specializing in imported Italian items or charcuterie. When buying prosciutto, look for a rosy hue in the ham; avoid it if it has a dullish hue or appears dried around the edges.

Extra fat should be cut to about a quarter-inch, and the ham should be thinly sliced. Better purveyors will often let you try a little piece first.

The cost of prosciutto varies significantly depending on the maker and the region in which it is produced. Prosciutto manufactured in the United States can be bought for as little as $13 per pound, although Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele can cost up to $30 per pound.

Best Way to Eat Prosciutto

We recommend presenting prosciutto in paper-thin slices to get the most taste. Put a chunk of fat in your mouth and let it melt on your tongue. As you appreciate the leaner areas of the prosciutto, which have a sweet yet salty flavor, this creamy texture will coat your palate.

Prosciutto can be served alone or with fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, and wine. For recipes like pasta and pizza, we recommend using younger prosciutto. To eat alone, save the older kids, which have a deeper, more nuanced flavor.

Conclusion

Prosciutto crudo can be traced back to pre-Roman times. Villagers in Italy started dry-aging hog legs to supplement their meat supply during the long winters. The art of creating prosciutto has been mastered over the decades, and the art is now celebrated throughout Italy and the world. Despite misinformation about the health benefits of cured hams, prosciutto remains a classic and healthful dish.

If you travel to most parts of the Mediterranean, you will see that it is an important element of the local cuisine. Prosciutto is a delicious meal to eat, especially when paired with wine. In a cold, dry environment, a whole leg of prosciutto can be stored for six months. The ham will keep for a few days wrapped in plastic and kept in the fridge after being cut, but it will oxidize and lose its flavor after that.