In Italy, the term prosciutto refers to any ham. But to the rest of the world, it has come to mean aged, Italian, dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked.
To make prosciutto, a cut of locally raised pork is salt-cured for about two months, and then hung in a cool, airy place for up to two years.
Serve prosciutto with good bread and Italian cheese. Good cheese matches are Parmegiano-Reggiano, aged Asiago or even a washed-rind Taleggio. Wrap pieces around melon slices, figs, breadsticks or asparagus spears for truly impressive appetizers.
Prosciutto – Place, Process and Tradition
Many regions in Italy produce prosciutto, each with specific standards unique to the region that are assured with Protected Denomination of Origin designations.*
- Prosciutto di Parma is the most well-known variety. The unique climate of Parma and the diet of the pigs used – including whey left over from the making of Parmegiano-Reggiano – are crucial to the ham’s end quality. Prosciutto di Parma is light pink, sweet, mild and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
- Prosciutto San Daniele is considered by many to be the finest available. During the curing process, local sea salt is used in sparse amounts and the hams are stacked atop one another. The ham is a bit darker in color with a sweeter, more delicate flavor.
- Speck is a smoked prosciutto from the Alto Adige region of Italy. After being cured with salt and spices, it is slowly smoked for two to three hours each day for about three months. Speck can replace bacon in recipes or stand in as a smoky alternative to pancetta.