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Parma’s Prosciutto: heritage from the past

It is recognizable for its 5 spikes-crown, which is a stamp printed only after strict controls. The Parma is a certified PDO raw ham with a low calorie content and an intense taste. It is also called “sweet raw” for the low quantity of salt used in the preparation.

In 1963 producers decided to protect this specialty by creating the Consorzio del prosciutto di Parma and in 1996 the European Community awarded to the most famous Italian prosciutto the Protected Designation of Origin. As indicated in the product specification, the entire production process must take place in a well-defined area of the province of Parma, delimited East by the Enza river and West by the Stirone creek. This area includes the municipalities at least 5 kilometers South of the Via Emilia and at a maximum altitude of 900 meters. Overall, there are approximately 150 producers of this Emilian treasure. While production can take place only in this area, the pigs can come from farms in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Marche, Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzi or Molise.

Only pig thighs weighting between 12 and 13 kilograms are used, they are salted and then slathered in leaf lard, an adrenal fat of the pig. The thighs are then aged after adding a bit of salt, the only preservative allowed in the process. After 7 months the hams are moved to the cellars, where the particular environmental conditions typical of those areas of production define its smell and flavor. 12 months later, after the inspections of the Inspectors of the Parma Qualità Institute, the recognizable crown brand is printed on.

Just like many other specialties of our gastronomic tradition, even the prosciutto di Parma has a long story behind it. Although it was only in the late Middle Age that some order was put in the centennial Italian tradition of cured meats, the prosciutto di Parma has a much more ancient origin.

This product was already appreciated under the Romans, in fact the term “prosciutto” comes from the Latin word perexsuctum, which means “dry”. It is said that Hannibal really appreciated the salted and aged pig thighs given by the locals when he was greeted in Parma in 217 B.C. as a liberator from the Roman dominion.

A century later, Cato writes about the production process of this delicacy, which hasn’t changed much during the years. A lot of other references about the prosciutto di Parma are found from the ancient days until the present ones, in witness of the recognition of this local product.

Today, after centuries, the Prosciutto di Parma is one of the most representative “Made in Italy” products in the world.

(Giacomo Schirò)

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