Category: 

What is Prosciutto?

Sliced prosciutto.
Curing prosciutto leg.
Some parts of Italy, such as Parma, have a Protected Designation of Origin to certify that ham has come from that region and been processed in a certain way.
Classic antipasto platter including sliced prosciutto and salami along with olives and assorted varieties of cheese.
Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese used in many dishes.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
A red blood cell can pass through a person's entire body in 20 seconds.  more...

December 19 ,  1998 :  President Bill Clinton was formally impeached by the House of Representatives.  more...

Prosciutto is the Italian word for “ham,” although most consumers outside of Italy associate this word with a specific type of cure for ham. To make it, the ham is salted and then air dried for a period of up to two years. After curing, it's sliced into paper thin pieces, which are usually slightly transparent. It is typically eaten uncooked, on charcuterie plates, wrapped around fruit and vegetables, or in salads. In some cases, prosciutto may be lightly cooked, as is the case when it is tossed with pasta.

Within Italy, the term is generic for a specific cut of meat. The food that non-Italians associate with this name is formally called prosciutto crudo, or “raw ham,” because it is never actually cooked during the curing process. Prosciutto cotto, “cooked ham,” is similar to the dish that non-Italians think of as regular ham. Different hams are also individually identified by processor and origin, and some regions of Italy have a Protected Designation of Origin, as is the case with Parma. In order to be labeled “Parma ham,” the meat must be processed in a certain way, using the flesh of pigs fed from the curds and whey left over after making Parma cheese — Parmesan.

Ad

To make prosciutto, high quality cuts of meat are selected and allowed to drain in a cool place for approximately 24 hours. After resting, the meat is washed and trimmed. Next, the meat is rubbed with sea salt and, in some regions, additional spices. The salted meat sits for up to two months, being periodically re-rubbed and turned. After salt-curing, the meat is washed to remove the salt, and hung in a cool breezy place to cure. A brief cure may last only a few months, but traditional products are cured for up to two years.

The wind-dried ham becomes completely dry while it cures, developing a rich and complex flavor. Care must be taken while curing the meat to ensure that it does not rot or become damaged, although small amounts of mold may appear on the surface. After curing, the ham is kept whole until sale, since it becomes perishable once it is sliced. Some producers slice prosciutto and roll it. This style of ham originally arose as a way to cure meat without refrigeration, but many Italians developed a taste for the meat, ensuring that the traditional technique would be retained.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon266545
Post 17

Can anyone tell me the best way to select the ham to cure on my own?

anon242525
Post 15

How would you cook prosciutto in a pasta dish? Would it be very salty? How much would you use?

anon167101
Post 14

all right people, learn your hams! No, prosciutto and jamon are not made the same way and they don't taste the same. Buying real 5Js ham in the USA is almost impossible, since the slaughter houses are not FDA approved. If you are ever in Spain, try real jamon. You will notice a clear difference from prosciutto. The color, texture and flavor are completely different. The taste of prosciutto is milder, and the prosciutto pigs eat a variety of things, whereas real 5j jamon only eat acorns and are cured for a longer amount of time than the prosciutto.

Once you try this jamon you will never want to eat another type of ham. Yes, it is pricier than prosciutto, but think of it like kobe beef vs any other beef. The care that goes into making Jamon shows in the end product. Hopefully, they won't be FDA approved anytime soon, since growing production would lower the quality of this very special meat. so if you are ever in spain, head over to a tapas bar and ask for their best Jamon, acorn fed 5Js mmmm.

anon138725
Post 13

"As bad as Virginia hams?" You've got to be kidding, anon. Virginia ham is just a place -- not a specific means of production. They're good animals; the rest is all up to the process used.

It's like comparing barbecued steak to Argentine beef -- one's a type of prep, and the other a place where good animals are raised.

anon137148
Post 12

it is so salty and very overrated -- as bad as some virgina hams.

anon135547
Post 11

Why do i break out in a rash and itch all over after eating this ham?

anon119320
Post 10

Prosciutto comes from the leg of the pig. And it's cut extremely thin because it costs anywhere between $16-35 LB. If it's your first time trying it go for the imported. It's more money but it's much better than domestic. Eat it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with fresh Mozzarella on fresh italian bread. Eating it would be like god came down and blessed your pallet with goodness.

elfi64
Post 9

Traditionally, in Mediterranean countries the pigs would be slaughtered in November to provide enough meat for the family for winter.

Obviously there had to be a method to preserve some of the meat, and since there was no refrigeration it was preserved with salt and curing.

Hind legs of the pig were salted and dried in the cool, windy air. That is how prosciutto was and still is made. Prosciutto that has been well dried is as delicious as can be, but it has to be dry, unlike bacon. These days you can buy it in any upscale deli or market.

anon47008
Post 8

where can i find it in a local store?

anon45163
Post 7

can anyone tell me what area of the animal prosciutto comes from?

anon39253
Post 6

What is the preferred room temperature & humidity for curing the Prosciutto?

anon37453
Post 5

quite clear and answered my question. thank you

anon32892
Post 4

As a southerner in Seattle - discovered domestic prosciutto as 'country ham'. Have the deli slice it 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and fry for 4 minutes.

anon30809
Post 3

Prosciutto and Jamon serrano seem to be made exactly the same way...is origin the only difference between the two?

anon21066
Post 2

Great explanation! Easy to read as well.

anon3275
Post 1

How perishable is prosciutto after it is sliced? Normal deli rules? Or longer, since it is cured in such a intricate way?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email