23 settembre 2011
Parma Ham - Prosciutto - Delicioso!
After our morning at the dairy, we headed to a Parma Ham facility.
After seeing the labor-intensive daily cycle of work at the cheese farm (same cycle 365 days a year), the work of producing Parma ham (at least the final stages we saw) seems like a mechanized breeze.
The hams are salted (by hand), trussed up on metal frames what will support them for the next year, & moved from drying room to drying room -- maintaining temperatures of 2-4 degrees Centigrade & humidity of around 60% for 8 weeks.
The hams are then rinsed in a mechanized wash (like a car wash) to remove excess salt. The exposed meat is covered with a thin layer fat from the heart area of the pig - the fat is mixed w/ a few herbs & rice flour so the surface will continue to breathe (this is also a "by hand" stage - but wasn't happening when we were there).
It's at this same phase that inspections are made of the ham, too. It's readiness and quality is judged by smell (inserting a bone pick into specified sections of the meat & then smelling the pick to test for any mold or decay). If all is clear, the ham gets the Parma seal:
After another 4-12 months of drying and curing in carefully controlled temperature/humidity, the ham is ready for sale.
Hams start off at around 17 kilos each & dry down to about 13 kilos.
They fed us lunch -- starting, of course, with an antipasta plate of cured ham products.
Sylvia, the daughter of our producer, and our server at lunch, convinced us we had to try the cakes because she had made them herself. You know how hard it is to get either of us to eat sweets, but we let her twist our arms (blatant irony if anyone is missing this).