Part 2 in a series about how Prosciutto di Parma is made when I visited a prosciuttificio (prosciutto factory) during the Festival del Prosciutto in the province of Parma.
- Part 1: Making Prosciutto di Parma: the Salting
- Part 2: Making Prosciutto di Parma: the Drying and Sugna
- Part 3: Making Prosciutto di Parma: the Maturing
After the salting process, the prosciutto have been washed and now they are hung to dry – usually in climate-controlled rooms so that the temperature is an average and most importantly, dry temperature. If there is too much moisture in the air, the meat will spoil instead of curing. The air is also changed frequently. The legs are hung with rope and though many of the racks are now metal, more traditional racks would be made of wood.
The old style of making prosciutto, as I mentioned in the previous post, dictated that prosciutto could only be made certain time during the year – late winter to early spring, when the salting process could be done in a cold cellar, and then the drying out would be done in the open air. Several factories would actually put the racks outside on the roof to let the air dry out the prosciutto as it continues to cure.
In fact, one of the things I thought was really interesting was comparing the photo of these prosciutto from the 1950s with today’s – look how much fat of the prosciutto is exposed here! It’s something that’s a bit of a struggle for producers now – most people don’t really want to eat the fat and therefore a leg that’s a little more trim is desirable. But at the same time, the fat is what helps keep the prosciutto meat moist, tender, and adds lots of flavor.
If you don’t like to see where your food comes from – look away now. Here’s a close-up of the drying meat.
After it’s dried sufficiently, the prosciutto leg is ready for sugna (SOON-yah). What’s sugna? Sugna is rendered pork fat, which is spread over the exposed part of the prosciutto. Usually the fat is mixed with spices like salt and pepper, but each establishment has their own special mix and proportions. The sugna helps protect the exposed part of the prosciutto and keep it from drying out excessively with respect to the interior part of the prosciutto, and therefore ensures you a slice of prosciutto that is tender and moist the entire way through.
The sugna is spread onto the prosciutto by hand, as you can see here – there are finger marks in their sugna!
At this point the prosciutto is still NOT considered Prosciutto di Parma – that’s in the next post!
Continue Reading: Part 3: Making Prosciutto di Parma: the Maturing
If you’re planning on participating in the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Contest – prosciuttO is a great O Food! Help us spread awareness!