What is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured ham. This style of uncooked ham is correctly known as prosciutto crudo in Italian, while the cooked ham which is used in the likes of ham and cheese sandwiches is called prosciutto cotto.
For the purposes of this pairing, we are referring to prosciutto crudo.
Its origins date back centuries. Like all pickled, brined and cured produce, it usually starts as a means to extend the longevity of their meat to last during the cold winter months.
The process gets refined over time and now becomes a bit of an art form in being able to cure the perfect prosciutto.
The cut of pork that is used to make prosciutto is the leg or thigh of the pig. It is heavily salted, and tradition dictates this is to be done by a maestro salatore or salt master.
This is then air dried where the salt goes to work to draw out all the moisture from the pork and as a result of that stops bacteria from forming. This process is also what gives the prosciutto its distinctive flavours.
After 60 to 90 days, the salt curing process comes to an end. The salt is removed and the leg of ham is left in large and dark drying rooms that have a breeze that circulates the space. It is said that the circulation of the air creates the different prosciutto tastes.
This process takes anywhere from 12-36 months, depending on how aged you want the meat to be. You can always tell how aged prosciutto is by the colour of the flesh.
A young prosciutto has a bright pinkish hue while a more aged prosciutto has a deeper red colour.
Which is the Best Prosciutto?
As with all famous produce from Italy, a DOP certification authenticates its originality.
The most famous prosciutto is the Prosciutto di Parma DOP from the Parma region. The entire process is done in this region from specially bred breeds of pig.
The other famous ham you may be aware of is the Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
The combination of different processes of curing, breed of pigs, climate, altitude and the air from each of the different regions all bring about the different flavours of prosciutto.
What Does Prosciutto Taste Like?
Flavour: The first impression you’ll get is the saltiness, which varies depending on which prosciutto you get. It is also sweet at the same time with a rich porcine flavour.
Texture: Prosciutto is usually eaten raw and it is consumed in very thin slices. The slices are so thin; it is almost translucent as it literally just melts in your mouth. One of the reasons it is also always consumed in thin slices is because it is not cooked and therefore if too thick a piece, it is hard to chew through it.
What Goes Well with Prosciutto?
Fruit and Vegetables
Apricot, asparagus, avocado, cantaloupe, cucumber, endive, fava bean, fig, honeydew, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, nectarine, peach, peas, potato, radish, rocket, spinach.
Herbs, Nuts and Spices
Macadamia nuts, paprika, pine nuts, pistachio, rosemary, tarragon, thyme.
Protein and Other
Anchovies, buffalo mozzarella, bulgur, chickpea, duck, freekeh, honey, membrillo, ricotta, turkey, wild rice
How to Use Prosciutto in Salads?
Prosciutto is best consumed in its natural form, sliced very thinly. When purchasing from the deli, ask for it to be sliced thinly and a good deli will show you the slice for approval before they continue.
Do ensure they also pack it well. Slices of prosciutto when overlapped tend to stick together, and when you pull it out, it can all come out in a giant mess. Ensure that paper is placed between slices to prevent this from happening.
Prosciutto can also be placed in the oven to make prosciutto crisps, and they make for delicious toppers or garnish in a salad.
Just place them in a parchment-lined baking tray without overlapping them and watch them crisp up in about 10-12 minutes in about 180°C or 350°F.
Salad Recipes with Prosciutto
Sweet, salty and creamy! We absolutely love this simple to make Grilled Apricot Salad complemented by the salty and smoky flavours of prosciutto crudo. Add some dollops of creamy goat’s cheese to round off the salad.
A quick and easy pasta salad covered with a savoury anchovy, parsley and ricotta dressing with pops of green peas and crispy prosciutto, we know you are going to love it. Great pasta with prosciutto recipe, perfect for lunches on the go and sunny outdoor picnics.
Crunchy textures with lingering salty notes, this Prosciutto Salad with sweet pears and delicious Jerusalem artichoke is perfect to kick start a night of delicious grazing.
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