Italian Prosciutti: Prosciutto San Daniele and Prosciutto di Parma
The most renowned and expensive Italian prosciutti, that come from northern Italy, are Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO, from San Daniele, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Prosciutto di Parma PDO from Parma, in Emilia-Romagna. Both are tattooed to ensure the protected geographical status system in the EU.
By Maria Battaglia
A few weeks back, I contacted my friend, Count Luigi Deciani, to let him know that I would be in Udine for a quick stopover. “Will you be around?”
“Come, come, please…stay at my villa,” he said. “I’m sorry I won’t be there, I’ll be in Albania.” The Villa Gallici Deciani is located in the countryside of Cassacco, in the province of Udine in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
“You must visit us, and taste our Prosciutto di San Daniele. You can be sure my friends will take good care of you.”
During a morning visit in San Daniele, I met with dott. Daniela Celledoni, director of Marketing of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di San Daniele not far from Udine.
“Our consortum is formed to maintain the integrity of Prosciutto di San Daniele di Friuli-Venezia Giulia, for itsflavor and quality,” she explains.
The most renowned and expensive legs of prosciutti come from northern Italy such as, Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO, from San Daniele, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Prosciutto di Parma PDO from Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, both are tattooed to ensure the protected geographical status system in the EU.
The overall process of making any prosciutto crudo is pretty much the same, it includes trimming the ham (made from the rear haunches) of the skin and fat, salting the ham, air curing, greasing with salted lard and then a curing period ranging from 1 – 2 years.
For the preparation of prosciutti, producers created a crossbreed of pig from the large white, Landrance and Duroc, specifically for their full-figured size.
The early dwellers of San Daniele discovered that the low humidity, excellent ventilation and hillside climate were ideal for curing meat and enhancing its flavor.
“It’s the combination of the soil with its excellent drainage, warm and cold breezes from the north, which arrives from the Alps and the Adriatic Sea to San Daniele. It travels along the course of the TagliamentoRiver; all these components contribute to the distinctive flavor from all other prosciutti.It is a product of 30 small producers who are based within the area of the town of San Daniele, and within the regions of the Po Valley,” she adds.
As for Prosciutto di Parma in north-central Italy, it is made from larger locally raised pigs.They are fed a strict diet and become portly on grains and protein-rich whey – the water liquid that separates from the solids (curds) in the cheese making process of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Parma being far from the sea has a landscape of rolling hills, cool, dry, sweet-smelling breezes that sweep over the ApennineMountains, which creates the perfect and unique environmental conditions for the natural drying for the distinctive flavor of Parma hams.
Four ingredients are needed to make Prosciutto di San Daniele and
Prosciutto di Parma:Italian pigs, coarse salt, air and… time …over a year.
The differences between Prosciutti di San Daniele and Prosciutti di Parma are the pig’s age and weight before curing.
In Parma – the pig must be ten months old and weigh at least 330 pounds, so that the uncured thighs weigh between 22 and 31 pounds.The length of aging time is 9 - 10 months.
A San Daniele prosciutto must be nine months old, weigh at least 353 pounds, the uncured thighs weigh around 25 pounds.The length of aging is at least 12 months and sometimes up to two years.
The hams are initially stacked atop one another with weights, making the salt penetrate faster.
Because of the stacking, San Daniele prosciutti are stiffer and much flatter.
More sea salt is used for San Daniele hams than in the process of Parma hams.Neither brand ever uses preservatives.
The distinct guitar shape of a San Daniele prosciutto includes the hoof (trotter) which is another identifying character for the traditional Friulian style ham.
After the curing phase, the Parma prosciutto is beaten to improve its round ‘chicken leg’ shape.Sometimes the cavity around the bare part of the bone is covered with pepper in order to keep the contact area dry. Bone-in hams can be deboned, and then sliced on a machine, or they can be hand sliced.
Most Parma hams are shipped to the U.S. already deboned, for machine slicing.
Tattoo - Bollatura
It all begins at the pig farm, where the breeder puts a special tattoo on both of the piglet’s thighs within 30 days of birth.The tattoo bears the breeder’s own identifying code and a special mark indicating the month in which the animal was born.
The Consortium records this data.This mark indicates that all legally required obligations and inspections have been carried out and therefore guarantees the quality of the ham and the ham-making procedures are utilized.
The ultimate and final seal of approval is the “bollatura” – firebranding the ham.
San Daniele hams are branded with an easily recognized mark with the initials SD in the center and the words Prosciutto di San Daniele written around it in a circle.
Prosciutto di Parma is tattooed with the characteristic PARMA letters circled in the center of the five-point crown.
What to look for
The meat will range in color from pale to pinkish-red.The marbling surrounding a slice or running through it should be white or rosy in color.
It will have a rich, sweet-salty fragrance and flavor.
Slices should be supple and velvety in appearance, with a slightly chewy consistency.
Throughout many Italian regions, prosciutti taste differently for a very good reason, which is what makes it unique and incredibly delicious.
I suggest you search out regional prosciutti:Prosciutto di Carpegna from the Marche – Prosciutto Toscano – Prosciutto di Padova and Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Eugeneo – Veneto and Prosciutto di Norcia in Umbria.
Every year in Apulia 33 million pounds of fava beans are harvested and transformed into antipasti, side dishes, and soups.” The traditional country dish par excellence is a puree of fava beans (pure’ di fave e cicoria) served with sautéed wild chicory called ‘ncapriata.