Making Prosciutto

How to Make Prosciutto: The Curing Process

Ever wonder how to make prosciutto? Or, why making Prosciutto di Parma is different than other types of prosciutto?

Step One: Tagging

step1-prosciutto-taggingOnce the legs reach the prosciuttificio (processing plant), each ham is tagged with a button, indicating the date it began curing.

Step Two: Salting

step-2-salting-prosciutto

Next, salting is completed by hand in the traditional manner, by the maestro salatore, or salt master, who uses only the minimal amount of sea salt necessary. This makes Prosciutto di Parma taste less salty than other cured hams. In Parma, the only “ingredients” added to the pork during production are the highest quality Italian sea salt, air and time.

Step Three: Salt Absorption

After the initial salting, the hams are held for 70 days in climate-controlled, refrigerated rooms to ensure the sea salt properly absorbs into the meat.

Step Four: Washing

The hams are then washed with warm water and brushed to remove excess salt and impurities, then hung in drying rooms for a few days.

Step Five: Drying

step-5-drying-prosciuttoThe hams are hung on frames in well-ventilated rooms with large windows to allow for a constant and gradual drying of the hams for about three months. This is the period that is critical to the development of Prosciutto di Parma’s unique flavor.

Step Six: Lard Layering

step-6-lard-layering-prosciuttoThe exposed surfaces of the hams are then softened with a mixture of lard, salt and pepper to prevent the external layers from drying too quickly.

Step Seven: Prosciutto Inspection

step-7-horsebone-process-prosciutto

After at least 400 days (some hams are aged up to 36 months!), an independent inspector pierces the ham in several locations with a horse bone needle, sniffing it after each puncture to check for scents that may indicate any flaws or spoilage.

Where is Prosciutto di Parma from?
How are the pigs raised?
What are the pigs fed?

Fun Fact: A horse bone is used to test the hams because it absorbs and releases scents quickly, which helps the inspector tell if there’s any spoilage, but lets him use it again for the next ham.

Only hams that meet these high standards become Prosciutto di Parma and are fire-branded with the Parma Crown. See the process of how to make prosciutto here: