PDO Prosciutto di Parma, or Parma ham, is the result of a slow, natural ageing process in the dry, fragrant air that blows down the hillsides of the Parma countryside. This is what produces this signature mild, melt-in-the-mouth cured ham, prized the world over.
The borders of the area where this ham is made are very well defined. Like the perfect treasure map, these borders very precisely mark out the Parma province area, located 5 km from Via Emilia, and extend southwards to an altitude of 900 metres; the Enza and Stirone rivers act as natural borders.
In this area, cured ham, or ‘prosciutto’ in Italian (from the Latin prae exuctus or perexsuctum, meaning ‘dried out’) has been enjoyed since the fourteenth century, when salt to preserve pork meat became a widely used practice in Parma.
There are several processes that go into making Parma ham, from carefully choosing the pig (which should not weigh more than 145 kg and should be no younger than nine months), to the final fire-branding of the stamp, the two Ps, which certify an authentic PDO Prosciutto di Parma.
Whilst salt and pepper may be added to the product during preparation, the use of chemical processing is banned; the ham is then aged for no fewer than 12 months.
The result is a mild, melt-in-the-mouth ham with a fragrant aroma, which Parma pays tribute to every year in September with its traditional Festival del Prosciutto di Parma. This would also be a great time to take a tour around the prosciuttifici aperti (cured ham manufacturers), or to visit the Museo del Prosciutto di Parma in Langhirano for an experience that’s all about the king of Parma cold cuts.
Delicious served as slices on bread, Parma cured ham can also be used as an ingredient in pasta dishes, such as ribbon tagliolini pasta with a PDO Parma ham and courgette sauce, or in meat-based main courses. A typical dish from Parma is the Parma roulade, which consists of veal rolled and wrapped around slices of Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Serve with a glass of white Malvasia dei Colli di Parma wine.