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“The ham is Christian Democratic”. The words of Francesco Nuti in his film of 1988, “Caruso Pascoski”, express well, through a political metaphor, the main characteristic of the most loved salami of all time. The ham is Christian Democrat because everyone likes it, obviously excluding vegetarians and vegans. The raw satisfies all palates, from the most refined to the simplest. A versatile dish that can be used to prepare expensive appetizers or improvised sandwiches. For all tastes and for all budgets, raw ham has been able to maintain a permanent position among Italian excellences over the years.
Italian raw ham: story of a patient seasoning
To achieve that unmistakable consistency, that characteristic scent, that color of precious ruby, you need hard work. Behind every excellent raw ham there are precise choices and lots of patience. But when and how is the ham born? Already in ancient Greece there was a widespread habit of drying and salting the meat of animals to preserve it for longer. In some texts by Marco Porcio Catone, the Latin writer of Rome that was, are described the various techniques of processing the pork leg, the most valuable part of the animal of which even today “don’t throw away anything”. The Italian heavy pork is, still today, the one able to supply the best meat to be then destined to raw ham, thus guaranteeing the highest quality of Italian hams. So, over the centuries, the various regional territories have specialized in the production of typical Italian hams, through the careful selection of the healthiest and most robust pigs, the reduction of fats, salt and nitrates, until they touch the perfect combination between taste and organoleptic characteristics (sweetness, flavor, aroma). Nothing artificial, chemical, industrial, only tradition. Meat, salt, pepper, a little fat from the same pig, a little flour and the main ingredient: time. After 18-24 months of waiting comes the most delicate moment, the test: an expert puts a bone needle in each ham in some precise places, and smells it. It is the moment of truth: that red salami could be a complete disappointment or a delicious ham.
Best Italian ham: tradition crowned by excellence
The raw ham must come from pigs reared and slaughtered in one of the 11 authorized Italian regions: Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto. In Italy the raw products that boast the DOP or IGP brand are many, but it is possible to draw up a list of the most famous Italian hams:
PROSCIUTTO DI CINTA SENESE
The Etruscans understood it first of all: those black pigs, with little bushy bristles with that particular white-pink band around the body (the boundary), would have given great joy to the palate. Today the Tuscan pigs provide the raw material for an excellent ham, flavored with the typical “agliata” of Siena and aged between the walls of ancient villages.
VALLÉE D’AOSTE JAMBON DE BOSSES PDO
Recognizable from the foot tilted at least 30°, like that of women with a veil kissing their elegant males in black and white films. The male to be kissed with the taste buds is, in this case, one of the best Italian hams, produced in the municipality of Saint-Rhémy-en Bosses, at a height of about 1,600 meters above sea level, in the Valle d’Aosta region. Maturing still takes place in a traditional way: between the hay of rascards (wooden constructions typical of alpine pastures).
PROSCIUTTO AMATRICIANO PGI
“I have no money, I pay with the ham”. The tax collectors who came to collect taxes on behalf of the feudal lords in the territory of Rieti often heard this sentence. And judging by the reputation that this sliced has gained over the years, the exchange rate was definitely advantageous. Intense perfume and iridescent red color for the best “coin” in Italian history.
PROSCIUTTO DI CARPEGNA PDO
A campanilist ham, worked and seasoned strictly in the town of Carpegna, in the Marche. Nude and raw, it is appropriate to say: zero additives and a round shape called “decoration”. When cut, it is perfectly bi-colored: on one side the salmon pink of the meat, on the other the white fat. It melts in your mouth, and it is not a saying.
PROSCIUTTO DI MODENA PDO
In this salami it is possible to read the history of the whole Emilian land: every people that has dominated Modena has left its mark on the production technique of one of the most famous Italian hams. Precious meat, whose waste is used to fill another famous product of the Emilia region: tortellini.
PROSCIUTTO DI NORCIA
A pear-shaped ham with a strong aroma of pepper. The Perugian delicacy teased the palate of Cato the censor who made it a real review in Roman times. From this typical product of the territory comes the term “norcineria” to indicate a shop in which, precisely, the cured meats are processed and stored.
PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA PDO
We cannot speak of typical Italian hams without mentioning the symbol of Parma excellence in the world. Advertising and protection of the brand are the keywords. The 5-pointed ducal crown is the symbol of originality and the guarantee of a very high quality. Nothing escapes the control of the continuous tests that ensure at all times the renowned goodness of the most famous Italian ham.
PROSCIUTTO DI SAN DANIELE PDO
Between the Alps and the Adriatic, here comes the number one prosciutto from Friuli Venezia Giulia. Listed among the famous Italian hams, it has a flattened “a chitarra” shape and is one of the softest and sweetest. A curiosity: it is the most loved by the clergy: during the Council of Trent the patriarch of Aquileia sent 12 Prosciutti di San Daniele to his prelates and the doges went crazy. Will it be for the name?
PROSCIUTTO DI SAURIS PGI
Produced in the municipality of the same name in the province of Udine, it has a very delicate aroma despite its slightly smoky taste. The colors of the rind are very special: the shades of orange, black and gold blend together like a painting. Impressionist Sunset? No, Italian ham.
PROSCIUTTO TOSCANO PDO
Here, in Tuscany, the noble family of the Medici regulated the production of what would become one of the best Italian hams. A particular trimming technique, shaped like a “V”, to make salt penetration easier, distinguishes it from all the others. The taste is decided, characterized by typical Tuscan essences and natural aromas (garlic, rosemary, juniper and myrtle).
PROSCIUTTO VENETO BERICO-EUGANEO PDO
One of the most delicate Italian raw hams that receives continuous applause from critics and tasters. A bulletin board full of diplomas for the product of the Veneto Consortium that relies on the quality of the best pork meat in the area.
Raw ham: the pride of Made in Italy gastronomy
In the collective imagination, ham appears as a symbol of abundance: it is depicted on the laid tables, accompanied by a tasting with full-bodied wines, conveying conviviality and good mood. If there is one thing that Italians can do very well it is the ham. Little advances in technique haven’t betrayed the millennial traditions of each region on the drying and preservation of the finest salami, which is not consumed immediately, but makes you wait, as a star, as a gift, as all the most beautiful things . And to think that everything comes from the pork, an animal considered dirty that likes to roll in the mud, the symbol of incorrect and repugnant behavior. By the way, as the unforgettable Fabrizio De André sang, “Dal letame nascono i fior” (“From the manure come the flowers”) or hams are born: the best Italian raw hams.
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