Prosciutto Crudo
The history of prosciutto dates back to at least 100 BC in Parma Italy, when peasants would hang hams to cure in the attic or cellar. Italian prosciutto is produced in specific legally protected regions such as Parma, and San Daniele, Tuscany, Modena, Veneto and Norcia. Protections regulate the production areas, breed and diet of pigs, length of cure, and curing process. This protects authenticity and the integrity of the name. Prosciutto refers to the cut, not to processes afterward. Specifically, I discuss Prosciutto Crudo, referring to the hind leg of a pig, rubbed in salt and cured (air dried) a minimum of one year. True prosciutto crudo contains 4 ingredients: leg of pig, salt, air, and time.
I will be comparing 3 types of prosciutto; the 2 most widely acclaimed from Italy, Parma and San Daniele; and the best prosciutto produced in the United States, La Quercia Prosciutto Americano.
Prosciutto di Parma has been produced on the rolling hills of Parma Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions today as then, except the tendency toward leaner meats in the last several decades brought on by concerns associating fats and cholesterol with health problems. To attain certification, pigs must be at least 9 months of age, in good health, and weigh a minimum of 140 kg at the time of slaughter.
Prosciutto di San Daniele is produced in San Daniele and surrounding regions in traditional methods dating back to the Celts. The pigs must weigh at least 160 kg, be at least 9 months old, in good health at the time of slaughter, and of predetermined breeds. Prosciutto di San Daniele is cured 14-18 months, with a Reserve cured a minimum of 24 months.
·         Both Italian prosciuttos are beholden to strict laws protecting every aspect of the production process from the heritage of the pigs at birth to the finished product. Only those that meet the preliminary requirements and then pass rigorous tests can attain the DOP stamp and assume the names Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele.
American prosciutto has a much shorter tradition. As Italian immigrants began arriving in the US in the late 19th century, they brought many of their culinary traditions, who attained the meat from butchers and cured the legs in home cellars.
A little more than one century later, Herb and Kathy Eckhouse founded La Quercia and began producing Prosciutto Americano in Iowa, using Iowa’s best natural free range Berkshire pork. The pigs are raised on a strict diet including acorns (traditional to Spain and parts of Italy) and are cured for 9-11 months.

La Quercia Cured Product Line
American prosciutto is beholden to FDA laws governing food safety and length of cure. La Quercia is bound further by its organic certifications, restricting the addition of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals in Organically Certified foods.


Prosciutto should be either eaten alone, or with accompaniments that stand up to its caliber, as determined by the ham’s quality. Usually, it is served in paper thin slices. Popular accompaniments include: fruits and nuts, especially fig or melon; wrapped around sweet peas or asparagus; with pecorino (sheep’s milk) or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; draped over bread or wrapped around plain breadsticks; and with wine (Prosecco is especially popular). Popular cooking methods include adding thin strips into pasta sauces, wrapping around cooked meat and baking or searing lightly, and using chunks or whole pieces in stocks and stews. High heat cooking should be avoided, as it alters the structure of the prosciutto, making the meat chewy and rubbery.

Quality Control
Curing Length
Diet Regulations
Flavor Notes
Regulated by the consortium of Parma and DOP laws
14-18 months (standard)
24 months
Specified cereals, Whey of Parmigiano Reggiano, Chestnuts
Fats balance the saltiness of the meat. Slightly salty with underlying nuttiness
San Daniele
Regulated by the consortium of San Daniele and DOP laws
12-14 months (standard)
24 months
Various standards usually consisting of grains and whey
Little saltiness, slight nuttiness and small bits of harder meat
La Quercia
US FDA & USDA regulations;  US Organic Certification
9-11 months
Focus on grains and Acorns, but free range allows for  omnivorous variety
Smooth flavor, lower fat content; strong meatiness, low complexity

Present Day Traditions
Italian prosciutto production regions hold 4 day to several week long festivals throughout August and September celebrating the bounty and showcasing the prosciuttos. During this 2000 year traditional festival, artisans will offer tours of the facilities, host guided tastings, and local chefs will center their menus around the delicacy.
In the U.S., prosciutto is less celebrated, but has its respected place during Italian-American Ferragosto (usually held like Italy’s in mid August), and in Festival and Feasts of St. Augustine.  Representatives from prosciutto manufacturers may set up booths or displays with recipes and samples. It is further showcased at specialty food shows such as New York and San Francisco’s annual Fancy Food Show.
Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma
Via Marco dell'Arpa, 8/b - 43100 Parma - Italy –
Consorzio del Prosciutto
di San Daniele del Friuli
Via Umberto I, 26 -33038

• San Daniele del Friuli (UD)
+39 0432 957515
• La Quercia
400 Hakes Dr
Norwalk, IA 50211-9644
(515) 981-1625
• Wikipedia
• Photos by Consortium of Prosciutto di Parma, and Prosciutto di San Danieleand Press and Media pages