|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 6g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Dry-cured hams, cured in salt and then air-dried, are an important part of many different cuisines because of what it meant to have shelf-stable meats before refrigeration existed. Many cultures have a way of curing meat using just salt, time, and air, but Italians have developed many of the most beautiful cured meats, perfecting the techniques over many centuries. Tuscan prosciutto, less known than Parma or San Daniele prosciutto, is a delectable cured meat that belongs to the family of crudos, or uncooked hams.
Our recipe takes a little over a whole year to make and, although time-consuming, is an enjoyable process that will be worth your effort. Our recipe brings to your table a high-quality and delicious product that you can enjoy in antipasti, with melon or figs, on charcuterie plates, or on pizza, pasta, or simply with a fresh piece of crusty bread.
Before you start, get acquainted with the process of curing meats and find resources and instructions that certify you are doing it correctly, in the right environment and temperature, and with the ingredients and proper steps that will ensure your health and the quality of the product won't be at risk. Also have a non-reactive dish large enough to fit the fresh ham.
For the Ham:
12 to 15 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 to 1 cup black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground mixed spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper berries, bay leaves, and cloves
1 30-pound fresh ham
6 pounds fine sea salt, divided
2 cups warm water, or as needed
2 cups distilled vinegar, or as needed
2 cups lard
Gather the ingredients.
In a food processor, make a paste with garlic, peppercorns, and a teaspoon of mixed spices. Reserve half of this paste for later use, placing it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Lay ham on a surface that won't absorb liquids and then rub half of the garlic mixture all over ham.
Add a generous amount of salt all over ham. The salt will draw out moisture and avoid any bacterial growth. Let ham rest for 3 days, wiping away any liquids it may give off.
Massage ham again with one-half of the reserved garlic paste.
Sprinkle it well with a generous amount of fine sea salt. Allow ham to rest for another 5 days, wiping away any liquids it may give off.
Use remaining garlic paste, and cover with more salt. Leave ham flat on a surface to absorb salt and give off moisture for 30 days, turning it occasionally.
After the initial 38 days have passed, shake off excess salt and let rest for another 10 days.
On the 48th day, rinse well with a mixture of equal parts of warm water and distilled white vinegar. Repeat rinsing with fresh water and vinegar until ham looks well cleaned. Sometimes up to three washes are needed.
Hang ham up in a dry place that's impervious to flies for 2 to 3 months. If unsure, wrap ham in a cheese cloth to be sure no insects can get to it.
Cover exposed flesh of the ham with rendered lard. Lard impedes bacterial growth like the salt did in the early stages. Hang it to age for another 7 to 8 months.
A little over a year since you started, the ham is ready—although many prosciutto makers age theirs for 15 or more months total.
Curing Meat Warning
Curing meat requires specific expertise and failure to cure meat properly may result in sickness or death. If you have no experience in this area, we advise you to consult an expert to teach you proper techniques and applications.
What Is Tuscan Prosciutto?
Sweet and fatty, with the right amount of spices and herbs, Tuscan prosciuttos dry for at least 12 months in climate-controlled rooms. If complying with the strictly regulated processes, these massive pork legs are then labeled with DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, or protected designation of origin) which makes them a sought-after and expensive product to enjoy. Some truly special Tuscan prosciutto are finished in wooden cases surrounded by wood ash for two years.
What to Read and Learn Before Curing Meat?
Since curing meat requires such a specific skill set, otherwise, it can lead to illness or worse, we highly recommend consulting with an expert to teach you proper techniques. We found that the following four publications are helpful guides and go in-depth about just such processes, procedures, and techniques:
- Charcuterie: The Art of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
- Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages by Stanley Marianski
- The River Cottage Smoking & Curing Handbook by Steven Lamb
- USDA’s Processing Procedures: Dried Meats
How to Slice Prosciutto
You'll need a sharp knife; the traditional prosciutto knife is about 12 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. You'll also want a prosciutto holder, which is a large clamp device that lets you stand the prosciutto on edge, with the bone horizontal—one generally begins with the half with the most meat facing up. Trim away the rind and begin slicing the prosciutto, parallel to the bone, trimming away more rind as necessary. With practice, you'll be able to cut thin, even slices. Once you reach the bone, flip the prosciutto over and begin slicing the other side. And once you have trimmed away all the meat you can get, use the prosciutto bone for soup.