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Prosciutto at a Glance
Friuli, Northeastern Italy and Emilia, North Italy, South Central Europe
Type of Charcuterie
Dry Cured Meat
Pork leg, salt, peppercorns, garlic, other spices
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In Italian, prosciutto is a broad term used to describe any meat that is salted-cured, seasoned and air-dried. It literally means ham, coming from the word prosciugare which is a verb that refers to the action of drying. Prosciutto making dates back to the Roman period where local inhabitants became skilled in the art of meat preservation.
Ham making became particularly popular in the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy, as well as in the Emilia region in South Central Italy. The first account of prosciutto in written history can be traced back to the 1st century, followed by many others throughout history.
There are many different types of prosciutto that can be found, depending on the region of origin. These Italian hams are generally categorized as either cooked or raw ham. Many of the different places in Italy have their own specialty. However, most steps for preparing the ham are generally the same.
A cleaned pork leg is generously rubbed with salt, garlic and crushed peppercorns then left to cure for several months to two years. Once the meat has cured the leg is washed then air-dried to remove some of the water content. The difference between prosciutto varieties comes from the standards to which these adhere.
One of the notable things about prosciutto is that it is dry cured in natural temperatures with no chemical additive. The pink to red color of the cured meat comes from bacteria fermentation. The curing process is what gives this reserved meat its distinct aged smell.
Flavor wise, it comes close to bacon and other hams. Prosciutto has an intense flavor that can be enjoyed with many different foods. Some of the things that go well with it include bruschetta , pasta, tuna, feta cheese, strawberries, spinach, asparagus, avocado, melon, mozzarella and figs.
Both raw and cooked prosciutto may be readily eaten. It is often sliced very thinly and wrapped over fresh fruits or served with bread. This works well as an antipasto, an addition to salad and pasta, or as an addition to soups and stews.
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