academia barilla  January 2007

Prosciutto di Parma DOP

Surely you’ve had it before, perhaps draped over a fresh summer melon, [...]

Prosciutto di Parma DOP
Surely you’ve had it before, perhaps draped over a fresh summer melon, topping a fresh pizza in a Neapolitan pizzeria, or on a panino with a few other salumi. The taste and the look of that incredible, thinly-sliced meat is something hard to forget.

The most beautiful of all cured meats, the Prosciutto di Parma DOP is one of the most famous specialties of the Parma region, and in particular, the city of Parma.

Over the course of the next few posts, I will try to explain in best detail as possible how it came to be that this back hind leg of a certain pig would be one of the world’s most delectable meats and treats.

Let’s first examine some of the background behind Prosciutto di Parma.

As one might image, Prosciutto di Parma comes from Parma, however, it is not the sole “Prosciutto” in the gourmet world.

The Italian government also recognizes a few other DOP Prosciutto products as original, historic and worth protecting: Prosciutto di San Daniele (produced in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy near the border with Slovenia), Prosciutto di Modena (from Modena, naturally), Prosciutto Toscano (of Tuscan fame) and a few others.

These Prosciutti are all considered top of the line pork products from Italy, but, none is as famous of diffused worldwide as the regal Prosciutto di Parma DOP.

In addition, there are hundreds of other non-DOP Prosciutto productions throughout Italy that are given the name “Prosciutto Nostrale” – or “our Prosciutto.” These Prosciutti are in such limited supply that they cannot be exported even out of their own province or region in most cases.

DOP Prosciutto di Parma is made in a very special, particular manner.

First and foremost, pigs that will eventually become Prosciutto di Parma have a very unique diet: they are fed, in addition to acorns, grains and other nuts, the whey of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production, which gives their meat a strong, nutty flavor.

These pigs are, of course, raised on farms that have already been given the seal of quality and approval by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, an influential body that actually tattoos a brand onto the young pigs’ legs to ensure that only pre-approved pork can be used for end-product Prosciutto.

In the next post, let’s examine the detailed steps of Prosciutto production, including the 10 phases of preparing, salting and curing the pork leg.

And, of course, I’ll offer a few ideas about how to incorporate Prosciutto di Parma into your weekly diet through some great recipe ideas.

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