Proscuitto is the king of all cured meats. Never was I a happier little girl than one summer when my father and uncle decided to cure two legs during the winter--hung to dry in my basement in Jersey! Lou Di Palo calls it "God's gift" in his new book, Di Palo Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy: 100 Years of Wisdom and Stories from Behind the Counter, due to release this September 2014. I, of course, speak of prosciutto crudo, "raw", I don't even consider prosciutto cotto, "cooked," (and please do not call it "proscute.")
A beautiful delicate and tender meat should be eaten off the tips of your fingers as all the proscuitto masters will tell you, so as to keep the flavor and aroma intact. I will go ahead and add a breeze from the Apennine Mountains in Italy, as you lie on your hotel bed to make this experience with prosciutto perfect! The process involves the hind and thigh legs, which are massaged, salted, then air-dried in dark rooms. This is usually done in winter, with the curing period between 1-2 years.
According to the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (Prosciutto di Parma), Parma pigs must be specially bred: Large White, Landrance and Duroc breeds, born and raised by authorised breeding farms located in 10 regions of central-northern Italy. Their diet is a specially regulated blend of grains, cereals and whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production, ensuring a heavy pig with a moderate daily growth in an excellent state of health.
San Daniele del Fruili
The ham thighs of the Proscuitto di San Daniele del Fruili must come from pigs raised in any of the 10 northern or central regions of Italy. The ham must be processed in Friuli, using techniques from the ancient tradition of making prosciutto. This includes raising and butchering the pigs at the same time each year and using natural sea salt with no preservatives or additives. But most important is the air, from the winds that descend from Carnic Alps which meet those from the Adriatic, that creates the scents that mix into the drying environment to develop the aromas of the hams. The minimum maturation period is 13 months.
Prosciutto di Carpegna
This prosciutto is made in the town of Carpegna, Italy and is made with pepper used in the spice mixture. To make Prosciutto di Carpegna, the pig is raised and slaughtered in Lombardy, the Marches or Emilia Romagna and cured for 14 months.
Tuscan Prosciutto Crudo
This is the Tuscan version of prosciutto and has strong flavors of juniper, rosemary, garlic and pepper, which are aromatic and flavorful herbs. Pigs must be at least nine months old and aging must last at least one year, although most producers will age the ham for 14 to 15 months.
(Hand-cut prosciutto from the Enoteca DIPalo Wine Tasting event)
How I Eat Prosciutto:
I don't like cooking prosciutto, adding it to recipes and never serving it with cantaloupe! I find that cooking with prosciutto renders it down to salt, hiding it in food just destroys the integrity of the flavor and combining it with watery fruits just cleanses your palate and who wants proscuitto cleansed from one's palette?!
The Best Way to Eat Prosciutto:
Off your fingertips with a cheese board in bed
With crusty, grilled Cafone bread and a drizzle of the best Extra Virgin Olive Oils (on the bread not Prosciutto!)
If with fruit, then with figs (Grilled, Baked or Fresh)
High Protein, phosphorus , zinc and potassium