Prosciutto is a seasoned, salt-cured, aged, air-dried ham. Unlike most North American ham or bacon, prosciutto is not smoked, which allows flavours developed during curing to come through. It falls into two categories: prosciutto cotto, which is cooked, much like our ham, and prosciutto crudo, which is the familiar paper-thin uncooked ham.
Italian-produced prosciutto is labelled according to its origin: prosciutto di Parma and prosciutto di San Daniele are two examples. However, most of the prosciutto we purchase today is produced right here in Canada. There are other varieties of uncooked ham produced by other nations, including Spain (Serrano), Portugal (Presunto, which is lightly smoked) and Germany (Westphalian).
How to buy it:
Prosciutto is available in supermarkets, Italian and gourmet food shops and by mail order. If possible, have the meat sliced at the deli counter, rather than purchasing it packaged and sliced. Buy unbroken, nearly transparent slices; there are usually 14 or 15 slices per 8 oz (250 g). Wrap and refrigerate for up to four days.
How to use it:
Traditionally prosciutto is served unadorned as part of a first course, or antipasto, often accompanied by melon, figs or crusty bread. Let it come to room temperature so that the flavours can fully develop. Resist the urge to trim any fat off the meat because this is part of the flavour and overall experience.
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