Table of Contents
Prosciutto and whether it can be eaten raw is up to you; it’s either consumed without cooking or with it. But there are many hundreds of varieties. Mainly, two types dominate the world, ‘Crudo‘ & ‘Cotto‘.
Now, most Prosciutto is Crudo Prosciutto. However, I would call them fully salt-cured and ‘dried’ not raw.
Prosciutto is kind of like the King of Kings when it comes to cured meats. My passion for making and devouring Prosciutto has led me to months and months in Italy.
Once you get your finger on the pulse, you see why it is such a respected food across the globe.
The Italian rules are that you’re looking at a minimum of 12 months of drying and curing; this intensifies the flavor.
Because of all the strict rules, the pork quality used for Parma prosciutto or Italian Prosciutto is formidable. It has international protection DOP (Italian) or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), and you know it will be incredible.
The main type of Italian Prosciutto is Crudo, which is dried (it’s not raw, since it’s cured then dried).
Firstly, it goes through the curing process and then carefully goes through the drying process (these guys in Italy, under PDO, are inspected all the time).
This is opposed to prosciutto cotto, which is probably more like your deli ham which is smoked and cooked.
This type of ham is also cured, but because the drying and moisture aren’t removed, it doesn’t have the long-term months of drying and preservation that Crudo has.
Cotto = ‘Cooked’
Cotto vs Crudo difference is explained more here.
It’s pretty crazy but you can have five-year-old dry-cured meat hanging and intensifying and flavor. This is top-notch stuff you pay a sizable amount for, whether from Italy or Spain (Iberian Jamon – wiki).
Can Prosciutto Be Eat Raw?
Yes, Prosciutto can be eaten raw (dried) if it is dry-cured or done in a style such as Parma Ham. The other primary type of Prosciutto is ‘cotto,’ which is cooked ham. Therefore, it is not raw.
For a lot of people, it’s a bit crazy to think you’re eating something raw, but it’s not really raw since it’s been salt-cure preserved and then dried.
And that is why you call this meat dry-cured, just like dry-cured salami or dry-cured pancetta (I wrote all about what is dry-cured here.
Why Can It Be Eaten Raw? (Dried)
The Power of Salt in Preserving & Drying
The Ingredients of Prosciutto
Specifically, we are talking about Prosciutto made in Italy; there are attempts and successful attempts to make Prosciutto in other parts of the world.
They may have more ingredients than the protected Italian PDO prosciutto. (Even in Italy, some prosciutto has Nitrates/Nitrites for color, taste, and preserving effect, as long as it isn’t heated to a high temperature – I’m ok with eating it)
In terms of food ingredients for Parma PDO, it is:
Salt and pork
But I would list ingredients more like this
Quality Pork, Salt, Time, Penicillin, Favorable Environment for Drying, Passion & Skill
There is a fine balance when dry curing meat; it helps once you have built up the natural penicillin floating around everywhere in the world to help protect the meat (think white stuff on dry-cured salami).
Once this is established at a prosciutto factory, it will start protecting and growing on the meat to help the long-term development.
Parma from Italy is still generally hand-salted, I visited the medium-sized Parma prosciutto factory and got a tour from the owner. It produced 85,000 Prosciutto ham a year, and every leg of pork was still hand salt rubbed.
Best Ways to Eat Prosciutto
If you’re talking classic Italian style, pretty much they just put Prosciutto in a decent bun or a few bits of bread, and you have a prosciutto sandwich -sounds simple, and quite often it is with Italian food.
Simple food made with passion.
But because you’ve got quality ingredients, the quality speaks for itself; dry-cured prosciutto ham can be a blissful experience.
One of the other favorite ways to consume Prosciutto is wrapped around melon, rockmelon works very well. But many other melons do this matching very well; the umami of the Prosciutto matched with some sweetness – and of course, the delectable fat of the Prosciutto.
I have attempted cooking the dry-cured Prosciutto since it has a high level of salt that seems to come through when cooked. The cooking intensifies the saltiness and doesn’t make it very pleasant for me.
Wafer-thin slicing makes sense because the saltiness is balanced; I have cut thick Prosciutto, which has a completely different taste.
In my opinion, just savor the 12 months at least it takes to make it.
But if you use it sparingly and cook, it can work; my advice is just to leave out the salt if you can.
How the Salt Cures Prosciutto
In the simplest form the salt inhibits and draws out the moisture in the meat, but it’s also binding inside the cells. The salt can slow down and inhibit bacterial growth inside the meat.
For tens of thousands of years, salt has been used in this manner to preserve food. It just got a little bit more fancy when it came to Prosciutto.
So it’s the beneficial penicillin that protects the outside of the meat and the salt working its magic inside and around the meat. It ends up producing one of what I think is the finest food delicacies in the world.
Other Aspects of Prosciutto
Thousands of Years of History
What makes it so incredible is that the Romans, for such a long time, were producing this for taste and necessity.
It is well-known that there wasn’t any way of refrigeration back in the Roman Empire. But when it was time to harvest animals they wanted to enjoy them for as long as possible for taste and survival sustenance.
So that’s why breaking down the pig into the muscles that can be cured, otherwise known as salumi, came about.
That is the short answer to what salumi is. If you want to know more about this, here is the post I wrote on the difference between salami and salumi.
Amino Acids That Are Easier to Digest
It was pretty crazy when I discovered this, but there is some science behind the idea that drying the meat in the way that Prosciutto is made is easier and more beneficial for the body in terms of digestion.
The amino acids are broken down more with this long drying process, and therefore you’re nutrients more easily digested. I’m not an expert here, so here is some of the info.
Trying the best Prosciutto
There are many variations of Prosciutto out there, but some get a few extra gold stars. If you want to check out the best of the best, I would highly recommend this Parma de Prosciutto.
And if you want to try the decent Iberian Spanish version. that ticks all the boxes; this is where the Spanish dry-cured hams finish the pigs on acorns. Nutty and Complex! 24 months drying.