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Sep 6, 2006 09:02 PM

Prosciutto Question

I am wondering if anyone out there can help clarify a question for me. When I was recently in Italy I had wonderful prosciutto with melon. The texture was different than what I have been used to here in the States. I put it down to freshness but I've recently purchased a Prosciutto from Daniele which had a similar flavor and texture.
The "typical" prosciutto I've had here has a somewhat unpleasant, stringy texture and a rather strong, not always enjoyable, flavor. The other type is a bit more delicate like a thinly-sliced ham and has a more subtle flavor. Has anyone else experienced this? What do you make of it?

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  1. Prosciutto needs to be sliced very thin. I'm guessing the results of the stringy texture was due to the slices being too thick here. It should almost be see thru and almost tear just from picking up a slice off the wax paper. Prosciutto should also be eaten the day it was sliced, ideally within an hour or it may dry out or lose flavor. Also, if the deli doesn't sell enough of it, the prosciutto can dry out if not stored properly.

    1. Sounds to me like you've just been eating bad ham. I've never actually eaten the domestic stuff that I know of, but the ones I've seen usually look kinda like what you describe. Could that be the problem?

      Otherwise, I've never tasted Parma prosciutto anything like what you describe - it's a stronger/darker flavor and aroma but still sweet like any ham, and never unpleasant. If it sits around too long after it's been cut open, it can get pretty bad, but it usually looks pretty bad too, in which case just skip it until next time or go elsewhere if you really need it right then.

      The San Daniele is sweeter and lighter colored (less aged, different swine, feed?) than the Parma, but it's just different, not "superior." (The only other one I've had is the Carpegna, which was more but not exactly like the Parma. I don't know if any of the others are available here.)

      There are a good half dozen or so official types of prosciutto and probably a number of local "unofficial" versions, so I think it'd be hard to say what you had in Italy unless it was noted on a menu or labelled in a market.

      1. In Italy, the best prosciutto is traditionally sliced by hand, so it's not paper-thin.

        Stringy prosciutto that doesn't taste very good would probably be domestic or an inferior Italian brand.

        The best prosciutto in a typical deli in Italy would be a San Daniele, which is not a brand but rather a strictly controlled type of prosciutto from a particular region.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Slicing - I was recently reading an Italian cookbook - can't remember if it was Marcella or Elizabeth David - and it also said that prosciutto should be sliced thicker than it is usually cut in the US - ie, not paper thin. Wondering if this is similar to the cutting of Jamon Serrano?

          1. re: MMRuth

            Jamón ibérico is often sliced quite thin by hand. Every guy has his own technique (one of the guys that I go to in Madrid is known as el violonista--the violinist). Some people like it thinner, some thicker. Some like it to have little knicks that give extra texture. I don't know any place that would run a really good ham through an electric slicer. It destroys the meat. There's just too much respect here (Spain) for the product to do that.

            On the other hand, if I wanted to get some really cheap jamón or proscuitto, I probably wouldn't bother having it hand-cut--it's so much extra work. Then again, I don't mess with the cheap stuff anymore. I'd rather have 100 grams of heaven than 250 grams of purgatory.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Good prosciutto and Serrano are hand-sliced pretty much the same way.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Well I suppose that the general idea is the same, but as I said, you'll find a lot of variety here in terms of how jamón (ibérico or otherwise) is sliced by hand. There's really no one way--it's a matter of personal preference and the piece of meat in question.

                1. re: butterfly

                  Yes, I totally agree with this. In Italy (and France) the best prosciutto is hand-sliced. Where did the fetish for super thin slices come from in this country? The kids in my Whole Foods often ruin the ham by trying to slice it so thin it tears, rips, shreds, and of course sticks to all the paper they use. Disaster every time.

          2. It has to do with the diet of the pigs. Mass produced hams are not fed the same quality food as the best hams. No matter how you slice one of these hams, the flavor will be inferior to a better ham.

            2 Replies
            1. re: butterfly

              There's a lot more to the differences between domestic and San Daniele prosciutto than the diet of the pigs.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                A pig with a poor diet of cheap food and a limited range of motion will never produce a high quality ham--no matter how it is aged and processed.

            2. Actually, since you said it tastes a bit like ham, it sounds to me like you had a sample of Prosciutto Cotto, which is proscuitto that's actually baked. I live in Boston's North End, and there's a spectacular shop here called Salumeria Italiana which imports and sells the most amazing proscuittos. They also ship some of them across the country and around the world. Here's their website's prosciutto page; at the very least you'll get a quick lesson on the different varieties:


              2 Replies
              1. re: Bostonbob3

                Great link - and I noticed that they show the prosciuttos sliced thicker than "paper thin".

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Actually, they'll slice them to your thickness preference in the shop. Some of the old time Italians in the neighborhood scold the slicer in some very colorful language if he or she tries to do the "paper thin" routine.

                  Personally, I think it depends on the type of prosciutto. Parma, I like pretty thin. Daniele, a little thicker. Cotto, you could slice like a country ham.