As the gossamer slice of prosciutto di Parma melted on my tongue, my senses of taste and smell transported me. I was no longer in a crush of gabbing food folks in the uber-hip Santos Party House in lower Manhattan. I was soaring above the fertile gentle landscape of the Italian province of Parma.
Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto—Tuscan-born chef Cesare Casella’s recreation of a genuine salumeria on the upper West Side of Manhattan—was offering the sampling of Parma ham and other cured meats. The occasion was last night’s kick-off for the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ upcoming annual conference scheduled for the end of March in the Big Apple.
Observing the chef carving the prosciutto was a joy. With practiced rhythm, he used the foot-long knife to slice the Parma ham in one fluid motion parallel with the bone. Rotating the knife so that the flat side of the blade turned up, he gently lifted the slice onto a plate letting it fall in folds like a ribbon. Between slices, he ran his free hand over the surface presumably to smooth out any unevenness.
Parma Products Among Italy’s Finest
My encounter between tongue and brain reminded me of the loving labor that goes into producing the magnificent prosciutto di Parma which carries the PDO certification (Protected Designation of Origin) of the European Community.
The production is monitored from inception to inspection. Italian pigs are bred specifically for Parma ham production and fed a special diet that includes the whey left over from making Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. After nine months, they are butchered, the hind quarters are trimmed, salted, cured, and then air-dried. No sugar, nitrites, smoke, water, spices or additives are allowed. The entire process can take as long as two-and-one-half years and the finished ham will have lost one-quarter of its weight.
To learn more about this unique food product visit the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma web site.