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Prosciutto

Posted By: Joe Ames
Date: Thursday, May 11, 2000 at 3:21 p.m.

Prosciutto

These dry-cured Italian hams are somewhat similar to Country hams. The long
curing and drying process results in about a 35% shrink in weight. The
following procedure can be used for manufacturing prosciutti (plural):

Select good-quality fresh hams weighing from 12 to 18 lb. Since prosciutti
hams are customarily eaten without being cooked, they must be manufactured
from hams that have been certified to be free of trichina. The foot should
be cut off below the hock so the shank is left extra long. The aitch bone is
removed to allow the ham to be flattened.

The following curing formula will cure approximately 100 lb of green ham:

lb - oz
3.5 - 0 salt
01 - 4 cane sugar
01 - 4 dextrose
00 - 8 allspice
00 - 5 white pepper
00 - 2 black pepper
00 - 2 nutmeg
00 - 0.5 mustard seed
00 - 0.5 coriander
00 - 0.5 sodium nitrate
00 - 0.25 sodium nitrite

The hams are placed on platforms approximately 12 in. off the floor. The
platforms should be in a dry cooler at approximately 36 to 38F. Hams should
be rubbed thoroughly with the curing mixture. They are then piled 4 high on
the platform with the skin side down, and some of the curing mixture is
sprinkled over the top of each layer. The pile is overhauled in 10 days and
the hams on top are placed on the bottom. Each ham is rerubbed with the
curing mixture. The hams are then overhauled a second time in another 12
days. The hams should be left in cure for a total of approximately 45 days.
Hams handled in this manner will come out flat and dry. However, if after
the curing period still flatter hams are desired, they can be laid on planks
and then planks and additional weight placed on top of them. A ham thickness
of about 2 in. is considered desirable for prosciutti hams. Some processors
place the hams in pressure molds during the cure to ensure that they reach
the desired flatness. After the hams come out of cure, they are soaked in 80
to 90F water to soften the skin, and scrubbed with a soft-fiber brush so
they will not show salt streaks when they come out of the smokehouse. Next,
the hams are strung with twine. The twine is not forced through the meat;
instead, a double loop is made, the shank encircled, and the knot tied. The
hams are then placed in a smokehouse at 130F and allowed to remain there
for 48 hr.
The temperature is raised gradually to 140F and kept there for about 2 hr.
Then the temperature is dropped to 120F for 8 hr. From 120F, the
temperature is gradually reduced so that when the hams are ready to come out
of the smokehouse, the house temperature should be 95 to 105F. To ensure
firmness, the hams should be hung outside of the smokehouse to cool for
approximately 8 hr. Finally, the hams are rubbed on the meat side with a
mixture of equal parts of white and black pepper. This should be done
carefully to avoid getting any pepper on the skin. The meat side of the hams
should look almost black when the rubbing has been completed. The hams are
then aged for 30 days at a temperature of 70 to 75F and a relative humidity
of 65 to 75%. Prosciutti hams manufactured in a packinghouse in this manner
are very similar to those which have been made for centuries in Italian
homes. Italians eat the ham cold but Americans frequently fry or warm it.

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