Parma Ham

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Parma ham prosciutto di Parma, is the most famous of Italy’s raw hams, produced in the province of Parma in the Emilia Romagna region.

The ham is made from the rear legs of Landrace or Duroc pigs that have spent at least four months within the borders of the zone of production, and which are fed on grain and whey (a by-product of making Parmesan cheese). The pigs are killed at a minimum of 9 months, weighing at least 160 kg. After trimming, the hams are put through a complex, slow salting process where the exposed flesh is dry salted and the parts that still retain skin are treated with a brine. The curing is completed by slow air-drying, closely monitored, when the cut surfaces are brushed in lard mixed with pepper, salt, and, sometimes, ground rice to slow desiccation and protect the meat from infestation. A ham which qualifies for grading by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma must have aged at least twelve months if it weighs above 9 kg. Hams are sold bone-in, though much is boned before export. The finest hams come from the village of Langhirano, 20 km south of Parma, where there is the greatest concentration of drying houses.