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rootytootyfreshnfrooty | Aug 25, 2004 08:39 PM

Is there a brand or a salumeria that has all of these, or a select prosciutto that is particularly outstanding?

Prosciutto is made by salting, aging and dressing a pork leg, then preparing it according to local usage. The choicest varieties come from Parma, San Daniele and Tuscany.

The Parma prosciutto is cut with a short shank or, as the native say, a coscia di pollo, "like a chicken leg". The hog leg should maintain the same shape as when butchered, that is fairly round.

The prosciutto from San Daniele is different in two ways. First, the leg is kept whole up to the hooves. Second the leg is somewhat flattened. Therefore, the leg is worked in such a manner that it remains stiff. It is then salted and placed under weight, a method that allows the leg to discard more moisture and, thanks to the particular climatic conditions of the area, allows for a particularly sweet flavored product.

Prosciutto from Tuscany has a very different production method from that of Parma and San Daniele. First of all, Tuscan production is limited to an artisan level. It is much saltier because traditionally the Tuscans do not salt their bread. Consequently the additional salt in the prosciutto compensates for the lack of salt in the bread. The prosciutto from Tuscany is, therefore, drier and much more red in color. It is traditionally sliced by hand and not by machine.

The basic method of making prosciutto is as follows: After having cut and cleaned the leg, let it lie fiat for a day in a cool place. Then cover it with salt and let it lie fiat on one side for 4 days, then, again for 4 more days on the other side. When the salting period is over, rub it vigorously with fresh salt and let it stand for a few more days without salt. Wash the leg several times with cold water in order to remove the remaining salt and hang in a dry, airy, ventilated place.
This stage is very important since the air plays a primary role in the quality of the final product. It is not possible to set the length of this stage in advance; it depends on the locai climate. The prosciutto will be ready when entirely dry. It generally takes 12-18 months to achieve a fine quality prosciutto. The production is supervised and approved by a locai board, in charge of controlling and preserving the quality of the product.

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