During ancient times some unique and ingenious methods were developed for preservation of meat. In Europe pork is the meat of choice, producing a variety and acquired taste throughout the regions. Prosciutto is one of the best known and widely used as appetizer in most of the gourmet restaurants. It is sliced paper thin and served with variety of foods such as cheese, pickled vegetables, smoked sausages etc. It is commonly used as party favorite when serving wine or other alcoholic beverages.
Simply put, Prosciutto is cured, smoked ham. To make Prosciutto start with fresh, whole pieces of ham. The bone should be taken out, but not necessary, as it will be easier to slice the finished product. The traditional method can take anywhere between 8 months up to 2 years for proper curing and drying. Smoking the ham is done in certain regions to provide added flavor as well as curing the meat faster.
There are basically 3 steps when making Prosciutto. 1. Brining Place the pieces of ham in a large plastic container. Top it up with salt water, meat being submerged 2"-4". The amount of salt you should use is 2-4 cups per gallon of water. Make sure to use sea salt or pickling salt only.
Do not use the table salt as it contains Iodine. The temperature should be 32- 40 F (0-5C). If the outside temperature is warmer, place the container in the refrigerator. Leave the meat in this solution for approx 3-4 weeks.
Mix the ham occasionally to equilibrate all of the ingredients. 2. Smoking After 3-4 weeks rinse the ham under running cold water. Pat dry, and insert "S" hooks or piece of twine for hanging the meat in the smoke house. This method is for cold-smoking of meats.
There should be very little heat, and lot of smoke being produced. Hot smoke is not desired for this process. To make a smoke house take 4 sheets of 4'X 8' plywood.
Make a box making sure to cover the top. Cut the bottom 3' of one side using it as a door for the fire pit. Near the inner top secure a rod, broom stick will do, for hanging the meat. If added air circulation is needed drill some 1"-11/2'' holes near the top. Each day for 7-10 days start a smoldering fire in the pit.
Use any type of hardwood you desire. Excellent flavors are obtained from fruitwood such as apple or cherry. You can use hickory, maple or oak wood.
Just remember you do not want heat, only smoke. Once the color is golden brown, or the smoke flavor is sufficient, stop with the fire. 3. Drying and Curing This process takes the longest time. If the outside temperature is cold enough you can leave the meat in the smoke house for the drying. Cool fruit-cellars will suffice as well.
The trick here is to have enough air circulation to dry the meat over 4-5 months. Once the meat is completely cured, consistent color throughout the ham without any red showing, it is ready to eat. Bon Appetit.
Mirko Davidovic is CEO of fyi4u, winemakingplus;formal education in Chemical Eng,Biochemistry and Psychology
Mirko's main objective is to empower individuals to achieve their goals, celebrating with their own wine.