Prosciutto di Parma owes its fame to a history which goes back to antiquity, all the way back to the ancient Romans. At the time Parma was famous, as Varrone says, for the large herds of pigs raised by its inhabitants who were skilled salt ham producers. In the II century B.C. in his De Agricoltura, Catone already describes the hem producing techniques which have substantially remained the same to this day. If we take a look down the centuries, we see that also Publio, Strabone, Oratio, Plauto and Giovenale spoke of Prosciutto and the making of Prosciutto. Its name has Latin origins too: Prosciutto derives from Perex Suctum meaning dried out.
Culinary references to prosciutto are many through centuries. However Guglielmo Du Tillot, Filippo Borbone’s prime minister, is the one who planned and had made the first two pork slaughterhouses of Parma, increasing and systematizing the local cured meat industry.
The geological formation of the area around Parma has certainly contributed to the development of the industry as well thanks to the presence of salty springs such as renown Salsomaggiore. The first phase of production which was entirely artisanal has today developed into an industrialized process, offering better hygiene while maintaining the original characteristics of the product.
Prosciutto di Parma is an entirely natural product. Its only ingredients are pork meat and salt and its only secrets are the Salting Masters’ skills, the sweet scented hills around Parma and long, patient aging.
No chemicals, smoking or preserving agents of any kind are employed in its production.
The producers association carefully guards the observation of the standard of identity to guarantee a wholly natural product, made according to tradition. The association’s signature—the ducal crown with five points—is a true quality brand.
Prosciutto di Parma is a pleasure for connoisseurs: the antique handling techniques and the slow aging process in special environments allow the development of a refined bouquet of flavors, complete of its famous sweet nuances. At hand is a pleasure to be discovered with care and time.
The spot is not too far to the north, close to the Po, where humidity wraps around all things. The land where Posciutto di Parma comes from borders to the east and to the west with two rivers, respectively Enza and Stirone. To the south it borders with the Apennine and to the north five kilometers from the Via Emila, in areas not above 900 AMSL.
Thi area enjoys a unique microclimate. The air coming from the Versilia sea is sweetened by sweeping through olive trees and firs in the Magra Valley. Then it lets off its moisture and picks up chestnut scents at the foot of the Apennine. Finally it dries the hams casting on the Prosciutto di Parma its unique sweet nuances.
Processing and Ingredients
Let’s go by degrees. Let’s talk about meat. For Prosciutto di Parma DOP the meat must come from national adult heavy animals, born and raised in ten regions from north and center Italy. They must be exclusively Large White Landrance and Duroc. The thigh whole must be processed, inclusive of the bone. The trimming is just enough to eliminate the rind and the excessive fat. Through trimming the thigh loses about 24% of its original weight.
After trimming there comes salting. As far as Prosciutto di Parma Dop is concerned sea salt is used in two different ways: for the rind the salt is used humid while for the lean parts, dry. Through the salting process the thigh loses some more weight (about 4%), giving away some of its moisture while absorbing the salt slowly.
In the Prosciutto di Parma standard of identity, processing must include larding. The thigh muscle exposed to air must be entirely covered by lard. The lard used for covering this area is actually a mixture of ground pork lard, salt, ground pepper and some times rice flour. Italian law does not consider lard as an ingredient.
Aging and branding
Pork thighs treated and massaged with salt dosed according to weight are then washed, dried and put to age in special locations for a minimum of 10-12 months.