Prosciutto crudo is a salted cold meat that comes from seasoned and cured whole legs of raw meat.
This article will concentrate on pork, but it is worth mentioning that there are also excellent Italian prosciutto products made with the meat of wild boar, fallow deer, goat, sheep, etc.
Nowadays, the meat intended for making into prosciutto crudo comes from farms operating a very careful selection of their pigs and a suitable diet has been fine adjusted, designed to produce a mature meat that contains very low levels of both structural and depot fat. In fact, their dietary rations consist mainly of vegetables (maize and soy bean, also including the bran) without any milk processing by-products. The meat is thus less rich in cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, with a higher polyunsaturated component and antioxidant vitamin content,
consequently giving rise to a nutritional balance more compliant with the current dietary needs of consumers, with a vitamin balance that improves the end product’s keeping qualities.
The stages of production involved in making prosciutto crudo start with the slaughtering of the pigs (coming from breeders that can guarantee adequate standards of hygiene and proper muscle development in their animals) when they reach a weight of approximately 150-180 kg, in order to provide a “heavy pig with mature meat”.
The leg of these adult pigs (which come from particular, highly-prized breeds and from limited areas if the prosciutto’s production has to comply with certain standards) is then cooled, cleaned, salted (generally using sea salt) and sometimes seasoned with aromatic herbs, the excess fat and skin are removed, and the meat is compressed slightly and allowed to rest in a suitable environment, in terms of temperature and humidity, so as to induce a gradual, modest dehydration. Then the joint is washed, dried and finally cured for a variable period of time in suitable ambient conditions. To avoid any excessive dehydration of the ham, the joints are often coated with a paste consisting of pork fat, ground cereals and salt.
Salting is a crucial phase in the process because the amount of salt used has to guarantee both an adequate preservation (by inactivating or delaying any microbial growth) and a pleasant flavour.
by Prof. Mirella Giuberti – Nutritionist
Crusty asparagus and lightly smoked prosciutto crudo
Put the onion and raw asparagus in the pan, cover with asparagus fumet and cook over a slow flame for 15 minutes.
Leave to cool, add the eggs, cream and salt. Toast the ham and spread it on the bottom of the tart-pans, pour in the asparagus sauce and cook in the oven at 140C° for 25 minutes.
Make the potato sauce in the same way as the asparagus sauce, without the fumet, covering the pan tossed potatoes and onion with cold water.
Cook over a slow flame, blend and add salt as needed. Serve the raw asparagus and crusty ham seasoned with lemon vinaigrette and a green side salad.
However, this is an interesting and complex subject which we will cover in more details next week!