An Italian Cut Above

Explore the delicious world of Made in Italy cured meats.

Prosciutto di Parma

Let’s play a game of free association. When you think of cured meat, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Salami? Bologna? Ham? How about Prosciutto? We would argue that Prosciutto di Parma DOP (which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) is the King of Hams, and it’s also the one you’re probably most familiar with. Unfortunately, most of the generic prosciutto you find in the grocery store bears no resemblance to the real thing that’s crafted in Italy.

The real deal is made from pigs raised within 10 permissible regions of central-northern Italy, which are fed a special diet that includes the whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano (DOP) cheese production. Free from preservatives, Prosciutto is made with three ingredients – pork, salt and time. Once you’ve tried real Prosciutto di Parma (look for the PARMA seal), we encourage you to taste more salumi from the rest of Italy. There are hundreds of kinds, but here are a few to add to your next charcuterie board:

Speck Alto Adige IGP– That doesn’t sound too Italian, does it? That’s because it’s from the Alto Adige region, which is right on the border with Austria, where there is some cultural give and take. Created based on the traditional rule, “a little salt, a little smoke and a lot of fresh air,” Speck Alto Adige IGP can be recognized by its consortium seal – either a bright green label on the packaging or directly stamped onto the ham rind. This ham starts with raw pork legs that are smoked for 10 days over beech, juniper or ash wood, then aged. Enjoy thinly sliced or cooked in recipes.

Prosciutto di Modena: A recipe perfected over centuries, Prosciutto di Modena DOP is a savoury salumi with a sweet and intense flavour. The meat is trimmed, salted, and left to dry for a period of at least 14 months. It is then stamped and sealed four times: by the farmer, by the butcher, when entered into the factory, and when the curing has completed, guaranteeing the highest-quality prosciutto made in Modena.

Culatello di Zibello DOP: This prized, cured-meat is made using pork from pigs born and raised in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy. The meat is trimmed, salted and netted into its signature “pear” shape, and then left to cure for a minimum of 20 months. With a uniform red colour and white veins of fat, Culatello di Zibello DOP has a sweet and delicate flavour. Serve it with bread and sparkling wine to enjoy.

Bresaola – This dry-cured beef-leg salumi is uniquely flavoured with salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, bay, and cloves. It’s ruby red, lean, and aromatic. It’s made in several areas, but only Bresaola produced in the province of Sondrio can bear the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta or Indication of Geographical Protection) designation. Enjoy thinly sliced.

Pancetta – Made from the belly of the pig, pancetta is similar to bacon in its fat-to-meat ratio. There are several different kinds crafted in different regions: it may or may not be smoked; it can be square, flat, or round; and it can be skinless or have a skin. Spicing varies by region, too, but look for notes of garlic, fennel seed, cloves, and pepper. Nota Bene: only Pancetta Piacentina and Pancetta di Calabria have been awarded DOP status. Enjoy thinly sliced or cooked in recipes.

Mortadella – Now, about that whole baloney misunderstanding – baloney is American. Mortadella is a uniformly pink, cylindrical salumi crafted from finely minced pork, made silky and delicious with cubes of lardon (pure pork fat) and meant for slicing thinly for sandwiches or charcuterie platters. The best of the best, Mortadella Bologna IGP, comes from, you guessed it, the Bologna region in the north and is seasoned with myrtle berries, pepper and pistachios.

Buon appetito!

Buon Compleanno, Roma!
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