A quick drive to San Daniele to search the best hams. I had never ventured to San Daniele and I always thought the best hams were produced in Parma. In fact the two hams are very different as you may already know. So what is the difference?
Before I tell you, the hams from Parma are not complicated but many confuse Culatello with the Prosciutto as they are not the same. Culatello is more comparable to Jamón from Spain as it is dense, dark and rich in flavor.
This is not to say that Parma ham isn’t very good, it’s just that when I think of Prosciutto, I dream of San Daniele and melon, the classical style of how it was served in many restaurants, Prosciutto e Melone.
In fact, Prosciutto e Melone originates in Parma, and is said to be one of the first meat products to be awarded the Designation of Protected Origin status. The voluntary prosciutto melon Consortium of Parma Ham was set up in 1963, on the initiative of 23 producers with the objectives of safeguarding the genuine product and the image represented by the name ‘Parma’.
The main difference between Parma hams and San Daniele hams in a nutshell is 3 things;
One is the curing of the pork and the exposure of salt to the thigh.
Two, in Parma its much longer and in San Daniele its much shorter.
Three, the Prosciutto in San Daniele is more “dolce”, which is more sweet, and the color is lighter as it is aged for less time. The hams are aged for up to 18 months and then ready to be consumed. The color of the ham is almost transparent and can be eaten by wrapping it around Grissini. I prefer to eat as is, or using the bread use in San Daniele, which is a very white bread, very dry on the outside and dense (but light) on the inside.
Lastly, (not number four) the production of Parma is as much as 2.5 times more than San Daniele and therefore the price of San Daniele is often much more expensive.
These are a list of D.O.P. ham producing regions in Italy, those that are protected designation of origin (PDO), and protected geographical indication (PGI).
Prosciutto di Parma, Italy – PDO
Prosciutto di San Daniele, Italy – PDO
Prosciutto di Modena, Italy – PDO
Prosciutto Toscano, Italy – PDO
Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo – PDO
Prosciutto di Carpegna, near Montefeltro – PDO
Prosciutto di Norcia, Italy – PGI
Speck dell’Alto Adige, Italy – PGI
Prosciutto di Sauris, Italy – PGI
Crudo di Cuneo, Italy – PDO