Everything you need to know about prosciutto

All about prosciutto

All about prosciutto

I don’t eat prosciutto often, but I’m never disappointed when I do. Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham known worldwide for its delicate texture, rich flavor and complex aroma.

Not to be confused with pancetta or guanciale, prosciutto is a dry-cured pork product that can be pricey but is so great served on pizza, in pasta, or as an appetizer.

In the production of prosciutto, a pig’s hind leg is carefully salted and air-dried for several months or even years. During this time, the meat loses water and gains flavor from exposure to air and curing with salt and other seasonings.

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what’s in a name

The word “prosciutto” comes from the Italian word “prosciugare” which means “to dry”. That’s fitting, because the key to prosciutto’s distinctive taste and texture is the slow, patient drying process.

Traditionally, prosciutto was made in the northern Italian regions of Parma, San Daniele and Modena. Nonetheless, it is now made in other parts of Italy and many other countries.

Prosciutto is usually served in thin slices as an appetizer or antipasti, either on its own or with other cured meats, cheese, or olives. It’s also a popular ingredient in many Italian dishes like pasta, pizza, and risotto, adding a salty, savory flavor to those dishes.

There are two main types of prosciutto: prosciutto crudo (raw) and prosciutto cotto (cooked). Prosciutto crudo is the more traditional kind, made through a dry curing process. In contrast, prosciutto cotto is cooked and often used as a substitute for ham in sandwiches and other dishes.

Prosciutto is a popular delicacy that people have enjoyed for centuries. Its rich flavor and delicate texture make it a versatile ingredient in many recipes, and its long history and traditional production methods give it a unique and authentic character.

Types of Prosciutto

Who would have thought that there were so many different types of prosciutto, each with their own unique taste and manufacturing process? Some of the most popular types of prosciutto are:

  1. Prosciutto di Parma: This is perhaps the most famous type of ham produced in the Parma region of Italy. It is made from the hind leg of specially bred pigs and aged for at least 12 months before consumption.
  2. Prosciutto di San Daniele: This type is made in the Italian region of San Daniele del Friuli. It is matured for at least 13 months and is known for its sweet, delicate taste.
  3. Prosciutto di Modena: This is made in the Italian region of Modena and matured for at least 14 months. It has a slightly sweeter taste than other types of ham.
  4. Prosciutto Toscano: This type of Prosciutto Toscano is made in Tuscany, Italy and is often flavored with garlic and black pepper. It matures for at least 12 months.
  5. Prosciutto di Carpegna: This is made in the Carpegna region of Italy and is known for its intense flavor and aroma. It is cured for at least 14 months.
  6. Prosciutto di Cinta Senese: This prosciutto is made from the Cinta Senese breed of pig, which is native to Tuscany. It has a distinctive nutty flavor and is aged for at least 12 months.
  7. Prosciutto di Norcia: This ham is made in the town of Norcia, in the Umbria region of Italy. It is seasoned with fennel, pepper and garlic and matures for at least 12 months.

Many other types of ham are produced in different regions of Italy and also in other countries. Each variety has its own unique taste and character and all are loved by ham lovers worldwide.

Prosciutto slices

Why is it so expensive?

  1. Time-consuming and labor-intensive production process: The production is labor-intensive and requires a lot of time and care. The meat must be carefully selected and prepared, and then salted and cured for a long period of time. The entire process can take anywhere from 12 to 36 months depending on the type. The long curing time and the attention to detail required in manufacturing contribute to the high cost.
  2. Quality Ingredients: The quality of the ingredients used to make it also contributes to its high cost. The best prosciutto is made from specially bred pigs, fed a special diet and free of antibiotics and hormones. The pigs must be raised in a specific region of Italy and their meat must meet strict quality standards. The high cost of these high quality ingredients is reflected in the price of the prosciutto.
  3. Limited Production: Produces in limited quantities, which drives up the price. It is only produced in some areas of Italy and other countries where the climate and other conditions are suitable for curing the meat. Also, only a certain number of pigs are used to make prosciutto each year, limiting supply and contributing to the high cost.
  4. High Demand: Prosciutto is a popular delicacy around the world, and its high demand also contributes to its high cost. Since it is a luxury product, people are willing to pay more, which increases the price.

Is prosciutto like bacon?

Ham and bacon are both types of cured pork, but they differ in flavor, texture, and preparation.

Bacon is typically made from pork belly and is heavily smoked, giving it a smoky, salty flavor. It is usually thickly sliced ​​and often fried or baked before serving. Bacon is often used as a breakfast food, but it can also be used in sandwiches, salads, and other dishes.

Prosciutto, on the other hand, is made from the hind leg of the pig and is not smoked but air-dried. This gives it a delicate, savory flavor that’s not as salty as bacon. It is usually sliced ​​very thin and is often served as an appetizer or used as an accompaniment to other dishes.

While bacon and prosciutto are types of cured pork, they differ significantly in taste, texture, and uses. Bacon is generally used in dishes that call for a strong smoky flavor, while prosciutto adds a delicate, savory flavor to a variety of dishes.

Ways to cook with prosciutto

Prosciutto is a versatile ingredient that is used in many different ways in cooking. Here are some of the most popular ways to use ham in the kitchen:

  1. Appetizers: Thinly sliced, it can be used to prepare a variety of elegant and delicious appetizers. Classics are, for example, melon wrapped in prosciutto, figs or asparagus.
  2. Pizza: Used as a topping for pizza, alone or in combination with other ingredients such as arugula, cheese, or mushrooms.
  3. Sandwiches: Used to add savory flavor to sandwiches. It pairs well with ingredients like mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, and can be used in paninis, crostini, and other sandwiches.
  4. Pasta: Adds a salty, savory flavor to pasta dishes. It can be used, for example, in carbonara, spaghetti alla puttanesca or other pasta dishes with meat.
  5. Salads: A topping for salads, or it can be mixed into the salad itself. It goes well with arugula, figs, pears and goat cheese.
  6. Quiches and Frittatas: Used to add a salty, savory flavor to quiches and frittatas. It pairs well with ingredients like spinach, mushrooms, and cheese.
  7. Sausage Boards: Thinly sliced ​​prosciutto is a classic ingredient in charcuterie boards, and pairs well with a variety of other cured meats, cheeses, and side dishes like olives, pickles, and fruit.
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Where can you buy it?

Buy prosciutto

If you’re looking to buy prosciutto, there are a few options depending on your location and preferences.

  1. Specialty Stores: Specialty stores like Italian markets and delis are excellent places to look. These shops often stock quality imported hams from Italy and other regions, as well as locally made varieties.
  2. Online Retailers: Many online retailers specialize in selling high-quality groceries, including ham. When buying ham online, read reviews and look for retailers with a reputation for quality and customer service.
  3. Supermarkets: Many supermarkets now stock prosciutto in their delicatessen departments. Although the quality of the prosciutto can vary, this can be a convenient and affordable option for purchasing prosciutto.
  4. Farmers Markets: If you have a local farmers market near you, you may be able to find locally made prosciutto from small producers. This can be an excellent way to support local businesses and get a unique, quality product.

When shopping for prosciutto, it’s important to look for high-quality products, made with the finest ingredients and properly cured. Read reviews, look for reputable retailers, and ask for recommendations from friends or local food experts to find the best prosciutto for your needs.

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