“Prosciutto” (pronounced prah-shoot-oh) is the Italian word for “ham”. It commonly refers to an uncooked, aged pork product cut from the hind-leg, dry-cured with salt and seasonings.
Nothing tastes quite like prosciutto, whether you enjoy a thin slice of it over a toasted slice of artisan bread or paired with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Even though it’s a well-loved type of meat that’s available in both thin slices or cubes, many people struggle to tell exactly what prosciutto is or how it’s made.
So, if you want to learn everything about prosciutto, then read on!
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What Is Prosciutto?
So, what is prosciutto? Simply put prosciutto is the Italian word for ham. The word prosciutto commonly refers to an uncooked ham that’s dry-cured for hours.
However, there’s also a cooked variety of prosciutto known as prosciutto cotto. The meat that is used for prosciutto is a fatty cut from the hind leg of a pig.
The leg is cleaned, heavily salted with sea salt, and left in a cool, dry environment to dehydrate for several weeks. This salting method dries the prosciutto and removes any leftover moisture from it, which protects the meat from growing bacteria.
It’s also what accounts for the distinctive flavor of prosciutto.
After the salting, the pig leg is hung in a cool, humid room for about 60 to 90 days for curing. Then, the leg is washed thoroughly, the salt is brushed from it, and it’s left to dry for about 12 to 36 months in huge, airy spaces or drying rooms, where prosciutto air-dries.
The prosciutto attains its unique flavor from the salting, air-drying, and the aging of the meat. Prosciutto that isn’t aged for too long has a bright reddish hue. It has a sweet flavor and a soft, moist texture.
Meanwhile, prosciutto that’s been allowed to dry and age for a long time has a firmer texture and an orange hue. It also has a more complex, subtle, and refined flavor.
Is Prosciutto Raw?
Yes and no. It’s “cooked” without heat, so that it becomes resistant to bacteria and mold, and from “going bad” quickly in the way that a truly raw meat would. The salting and curing process is an age-old method of preserving meats for long periods.
That said, there is a cooked-with-heat variety called prosciutto cotto.
Can You Freeze Prosciutto?
You can freeze almost anything, technically, but prosciutto lasts so long on its own that freezing it may cause this delicacy to lose its signature flavor and tenderness.
Prosciutto is already cured meat and will easily stay in your fridge for a few weeks. The best way to ensure that your prosciutto lasts in your fridge and retains its freshness and flavor is to store it carefully.
Simply use a wrap to tightly cover and wrap the prosciutto and put it in the back of your fridge. We love these beeswax food wraps. They continue to work well with far less waste than plastic wrap or foil because they are reusable.
What Does Prosciutto Taste Like?
Prosciutto has a delectably sweet and salty taste. It also has a rich yet refined porcine taste. The flavors of prosciutto melt into your mouth when it’s sliced into exceptionally thin slices for a wonderfully palatable, buttery experience.
Each slice of prosciutto is typically streaked with some fat and has a salmon pinkish to reddish-brown hue.
Some varieties of prosciutto are seasoned with herbs and spices such as rosemary, juniper, garlic, and black pepper, which give the slices a distinctive and fragrant flavor.
Moreover, the flavor of prosciutto also depends on how long it’s been aged; the longer it ages, the more complex and refined its flavors are.
How to Eat Prosciutto
The ideal way to highlight the complex flavor profile of prosciutto is to slice it thinly and serve it with various accompaniments such as ripe melon, fresh figs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or toasted bread. It also goes quite well with wine.
Moreover, you can layer slices of prosciutto on top of a pizza that’s just been removed from the oven. This way, the flavor of the prosciutto will become more pronounced and it’ll retain its silky, buttery consistency.
You can also dice and cook the rinds of prosciutto into stews and soups to amp up the flavor to your dishes.
You can also cook younger prosciutto crudo and add it in pasta dishes and pizza and reserve the more aged version to enjoy as is. You can also use prosciutto in soups, bread, stuffing, cutlets, and more such dishes.
The Bottom Line
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on “what is prosciutto?”
Prosciutto is cured pork that’s been salted, dried, and aged. It’s a unique salty and sweet flavor and tends to melt into the mouth with a buttery aftertaste.
You can enjoy it as is with various cheeses, fruits, veggies, and wine or add it on top of pizza, pasta dishes, bread, etc. However you try this delectable cut of cured meat, it is bound to win you over!