academia barilla  January 2007
   

Discovering Prosciutto di Parma!

So, we’ve talked a bit about how Prosciutti are made, in general, [...]

So, we’ve talked a bit about how Prosciutti are made, in general, but now let’s get down to specifics.Prosciutto di parma: a rose of Prosciutto
Let’s examine the detailed 10 step process of preparing Prosciutto di Parma from start (oink oink!) to finish (yum yum).

As a side note, Academia Barilla maintains an excellent photo gallery of actual Prosciutto di Parma production – it is a great companion to this narrative.

Step one: “Materia Prima” –
Legs from quality pigs grown in the region of Parma (from only about 14 different towns), and grown in accordance with the strict guidelines of the Consorzio, arrive at the processing location to become DOP Prosciutto di Parma.
Over the next approximately 20 months they will undergo the following nine steps until they emerge as a finished, delectable Italian gourmet food product!

Step two: Cooling –
So that the legs can be properly processed, they are refrigerated at or around 34 degrees Fahrenheit, usually for over 24 hours, so that the raw meat becomes firm.

Step three: Cleaning and Trimming –
Next, a butcher carefully cuts away excess fat and skin from the leg, leaving the quality meat and necessary fats on the bone. From this point, the intense Prosciutto production can begin.

Step four: First Salting –
Here the cleaned leg gets doused in a healthy coating of wet and dry sea salts. Wetter salts are applied to the cut, exposed area of the leg, and drier salts are applied to the skin and upper leg parts. A metal seal from the Conzorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is added to the leg at this stage.

Step five: First Resting -
The leg is then put into another refrigerated environment where it will stay at 34-36 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity for 7 days. This is the first stage of the Prosciutto curing process.

Step six: Washing and Drying –
The salt from the first salting is removed and the leg is washed completely and then thoroughly dry. Keep in mind that this entire process is done by hand, so, just imagine the hours that the carefully trained Maestri del Prosciutto have already put into this process!

Step seven: Re-salting and Aging –
The next process is the Second Salting, where the leg gets introduced to another batch of salt, though this amount is less than its first encounter with salt. A little finer grind of seal salt is applied to the leg, and it is then put into an aired cave- or grotto-like structure for up to 80 days of aging at 36-40 degree temperatures and about 75% humidity. Both humidity and temperature are incredibly important to the success of the Prosciutto curing and aging.
Step eight: Another Washing, and some more Salt! –
The leg is washed and dried to remove all salt. At this point, the leg undergoes its last salting, called the Sugnatura after the mix of lard and salt that is added to the leg at this point. From here, the leg gets transported to its first curing stop, where it will remain at about 63 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 200 days.

Step nine: Inspection –
At this point, the Prosciutto is close to becoming a final product, and it is given its date with the inspector for the Consorzio, who will use a special tool (called a sonda, it is made from the shinbone of a horse!) to test the quality of the Prosciutto. If it passes the inspector’s scrupulous eye, it is given the official Brand and Seal of the Consorzio, a crown. It is now officially on its way to becoming Prosciutto di Parma.

Step ten: Final Curing –
Once the Consorzio has given its seal of approval to the leg, it is cured for an additional 12 months to ensure that the product is top notch. This final curing is done in another temperature-controlled cell. After 12 months, the product is ready for commercial sale. Academia Barilla cures its DOP Prosciutto di Parma for another 6 months, for a total of 18 months, to create a more balanced and sweeter flavor.

In my next installment, I’ll cover how to use this fantastic product in your next gourmet Italian meal.

Until then, I wish you Prosciutto-encrusted dreams, of this lovely, amazing gourmet Italian food product.

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