By Eleonora Vanello
Parma ham aka ‘prosciutto di Parma’ is increasing in popularity and appearing on more and more UK tables.
It’s easy to find it in Italian restaurants, on grazing boards, or as a special ingredient in fusion dishes. Although many of you might have tasted it, not everybody knows the provenance, history, or components of this famous Italian charcuterie.
The ham as been produced in Italy, in Parma (Emilia Romagna), since Roman Times when pig legs were preserved through a process of salting, drying and greasing.
Nowadays, Parma Ham is made very similar to its ancestor, with the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma safeguarding and upholding its traditional production methods and premium quality. Every stage of this process must occur in Parma to qualify for the name Parma. Even the pre-sliced packs of Parma ham available in most UK supermarkets are sliced in the area of origin.
Established in 1963, The Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, is the official body in charge of protecting and promoting the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification.
The name “Parma Ham” is exclusively reserved for hams bearing the Ducal Crown. Indeed, at the end of the ageing period, which, by law, lasts at least one year, each leg of ham is checked for quality by a member of an independent inspection body. Once the quality is approved, hams are ready for the official stamp of certification, the Ducal Crown (which also shows each producer’s identification code).
Parma Ham is made using only 4 ingredients – Italian pork, air, salt, and time. The pig legs are salted by the Maestro Salatore (master salter) and hung for 60-90 days. The salting process is integral in determining Parma Ham’s final taste, as salt is the only preservative used in making the ham (no nitrates or nitrites).
Parma Ham finds the perfect pairing with fruits, mainly figs and melon but also plums, blueberries, and exotic fruits. In Emilia Romagna it’s used as the main ingredient in traditional dishes such as Piadina Romagnola, Torta Fritta di Parma or Tortellini alla Bolognese. Parma Ham is also perfect on its own or wrapped on to a breadstick.
Suggested wines for pairing are ideally white and sparkling but also red fruity.