Emilia Delizia infographic about the differences between Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma) and Jamon Serrano.
Emilia Romagna is the region of Italy that shaped modern Italian cuisine. Notably there are 4 products that you should take home with you and they are balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and a bottle of good Lambrusco.
Parmesan cheese as it is an aged cheese is safe to take back to most countries in the world, including the U.S. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and of course the entire EU. Generally speaking there are no restrictions in self importing Parmigiano Reggiano to any country. Custom officers back home should not give you any trouble when taking with you this aged cheese. It also a common norm to vacuum pack the cheese, and remember to ask for “sotto vuoto”, the shop keeper will oblige and vacuum pack the cheese for you. In this form the Parmesan cheese will last for 6 months and once opened, store it in a Tupperware container for no longer than 2/3 months.
For cured meat is a different story, unfortunately it virtually impossible to bring back any meat products when travelling outside the EU. The U.S. Japanese and Australian customs are quite strict when it comes to cold cuts from Italy, they might impose hefty fines. On the other hand if you travel inside the E.U. there are no restrictions of any kind.
Aceto balsamico tradizionale of Modena and Reggio Emilia comes in 100 ml bottles and it is packed in sturdy boxes. Theoretically you could take it on the plane on your carry-on luggage as the content is 100 ml, however rather than confronting the check-in people with your precious black gold it would be a better option to store it in your checked-in luggage. As it comes in its strong boxes there are no chances of breaking the bottles. Shipping is another option but not all producers do it and it is costly especially for small purchases.
Good Lambrusco is scarce back home, you are more likely to be able to find cheaper versions that fill the bottom of the supermarket shelves. In the last 10 years Lambrusco producers have been working hard to make upper scale versions of the wine and get the recognitions that they should really deserve. Many visitors after trying our best Lambrusco cannot go home without a bottle of the red sparkling wine. Customs wise is permitted to take alcohol back home but the quantities vary depending on the country so it is better to check this details before taking large quantities. Of course there are no restriction for personal use within the E.U. Bottles travel safely in the check in luggage but they should be properly wrapped before packing them. Try to wrap a towel around them. Shipping wine is also an option but really worth only if you buy expensive premium wines.
As Emilia Delizia main office is based in London UK, we would like to announce our wholesale food service for delicatessens, restaurants, food importers and resellers. If you are based in London and you are looking for one of our products in larger quantities we are able to supply premium organic quality directly from Italy at competitive prices. The produces are palletised and shipped directly to your doorstep. Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco can be also sent to the U.S, Australia, Japan, and other countries world wide. For more information about our organic products you can check our online food shop.
To become a master Parma ham salter might take many years. Fabrizio of La Perla Parma ham factory in Langhirano says it might take up to 10 years to really master the ability to put the right amount of salt in the right places, he explained during one of our prosciutto tour in the area.
According to the discipline of the Parma ham consortium the back legs of the animals must arrive quickly at the curing facility. In fact the freshly slaughtered meat has bacteria growing on it, the faster you start the production, the least salt you will need to use.
Parma ham is famous for its delicate aroma, and surprisingly it is not salty at all. This is obtained by adding little salt, time and patience. But curing meat with little salt also increases your chances to fail.
When the meat arrives in Langhirano is loaded on a machine that massage and salts the rind.. The difficult bit is to salt the exposed meat, and that it is done exclusively by hand. Below you can see the 3 fundamental points where the leg is salted precisely by the skill full hands of the master salter.
1) it is important that the meat is not covered in salt, but it is applied only in these critical points. Firstly salt is applied on the femoral head as you can see in the picture above. These are points that if they are not salted correctly they will spoil easily.
2) Secondly he presses on the femoral artery, as pictured above, and he adds salt in the area that he created with his fingers. So this is an other critical point where the ham curer should take care of.
3) The 3rd and last part that has to be salted is the fatty part that it is between the meat and the rind of the pig. Therefore the master salter takes a handful of salt and smears it along the fatty line of the leg.
Emilia Delizia organises Parma ham factories tours at small and artisan producers in the Parma province. If you are interested in ham curing techniques we will be glad to organise a detailed visit in the language of your preference.
Parma is a town in the north west of Italy, not far from Milan and the Cinque Terre. Parma is well connected via train links, motorway and recently even by air with the newly opened Verdi airport which connects the town with London Stansted. Thanking to this new possibility it is now possible to spend a long weekend to explore the best food in Italy, medieval castles and aristocratic palazzoes.
Heading south just 30 minutes by car from central Parma, we will find the Castle of Torrechiara. An important manor overlooking the Parma river valley. Once belonging to the Rossi family is now a museum open to everyone interested in visiting this splendid example of medieval architecture. The highlight of the visit is the magnificent “bedroom” once dedicated to Pier Maria Rossi’s lover: Bianca. But this is not all. The Torrechiara castle is only part of the fun. The castle’s adjacent town is the centre of the Parma ham production. In Langhirano you can sample the best prosciutto that you can find around, and directly from the producers too. The best of all comes when you can stay at the castle b&b and have your dinner right at Locanda del Castello a restuarant providing excellent and typical Parma style dishes.
To make things more interesting you could stay a selected farm and wake up in the morning with an amazing breakfast followed with a tour of parmesan cheese production. This is possible in Lesignano Bagni not far from the Parma ham production area and it also close to a balsamic vinegar producer. In fact you can visit all 3 products in just one one day with a 2 night stay.
The Parma province has a lot to offer and maybe you need to start to make choices in your long weekend. The area once under the French control was named the little Paris, due to the charming resemblance of the river side of the two cities. But another important guest was living in the small town of Colorno. Marie Luise duchess of Parma and wife of Napolon. She made Colorno her home and she had a whole palazzo for herself. The ducal palace of Colorno is a splendid example of renaissance architecture. Not to be missed is the hourly tour inside the palace. Do not forget to walk in the English style palace garden that is always accessible during daylight.
But Colorno is home of another delicacy: Culatello ham. Probably it is the first location making the ham heading north from Parma. Remember that many producers are happy to do guided visits inside their cellars, so just follow the culatello road sign and ask.
Heading north from Parma towards the great Po’ river we will encounter an unpretentious village called Polesine. The highlight here is the building named after the noble parmense family: the Pallavicini. While the village has been moved from the shores for the river, remarkably the Antica Corte still sits next to to the banks of Po’. The Antica Corte Pallavicina has been completely restored by Massimo Spigaroli, who is the keeper of the secrets of culatello. He will oblige to show you the massive brick cellars of the palace literally filled with the precious ham. Massimo also organises cooking lessons, and ham making sessions. Cycling and boat tours of the Po’ river. Of course you can also stay at the palace by renting one of the modern and comfortable room.
Roccabianca literally the white castles lies in the flat of the Parma province just few kilometres from the Po’ River. Pier Maria Rossi not satisfied with Torrechiara castle builds another palace for Bianca (his lover) here in the foggy and marshy lands north of Parma. Roccabianca is simply spectacular, the external walls of the inner courts are completely covered in ivy. Here it is easy to imagine tales of knights and dames. But Roccabianca is also the home of the Italian author Giovannino Guareschi, maybe known more familiar to the Italians than the foreign visitors. It is still worth to mention that you can visit his house and discover this stories of Don Camillo and Peppone. Of course Roccabianca is one of the homes of Culatello, so enjoy it while you are there.
The home of the famous culatello and also the headquarters of the consortium. In November there is the culatello festival called Novemberpork. The local fiesta is totally dedicated to swine delicacies. Their tagline is: speriamo che ci sia la nebbia, it translates as we hope that it is going to be foggy. For many might sound strange but the producers claim that they need to open the windows of their cellars to let the fog. Apparently you will need that sort of humidity to cure the ham correctly.
Needless to say that here in Soragna you will find 2 things: a castle and culatello ham. It is a tiny comune with a characteristic porticoed town centre. While you are here you should visit the Rocca di Soragna, another magnificent castle with the advantage of still being inhabited by its prince descending from the Lupi family. English guided visits can be organised and culatello producers are in range.
San Secondo is the home of spalla di San Secondo. A pork speciality made with the front shoulders of the animal. The cooked version is served warm with torta fritta (a earthy fried bread) coupled together it is a mind blowing experience The flat land around Parma do not produce great wines but if you come across the Fortana wine, or Fortanina you should not miss the chance to try it, light and fruity is heart-warming in those foggy nights.
The Po’ river offers plenty of opportunities for those wanting to cycle or walk. In fact it is possible to rent bicycles locally and go on cycling tour of the area. The activities require some sort of fitness but they are considered easy trails as they are in the flat. The day can be also combined with the navigation of the Po’ river and a stop in Cremona. Of course we will include a gourmet visit to a culatello producer.
Our best gourmet foods available in Parma are included in the tour. We will start the day with Parmesan, where our guides will go in details about the production of the famous cheese, as usual our visit will include the productions steps, the brine rooms and the ageing cellars, all with the final tasting. Participants will witness the creation of the cheese wheels from raw milk till it is turned into the aged product. This is a food cultural tour to enlighten those interested to see how cheese making happens.
Just after the cheese production you will taken to a winery facing the marvellous Torrechiara castle (pictured below). Along the fantastic view you will have an aperivito based on 3 wines such as Malvasia (sparkling white) Lambrusco (sparkling red) and other DOC wines available from the winery. Each wine is accompanied with finger food such as reserve Parma ham rolled on bread sticks, vintage Parmesan and so on. After the tasting we will take a short walk to the Castle via the vineyard, where we will visit the castles (please note that it is closed on Mondays)
The tour will continue with our Parma ham visit. Here we will visit a producer of the renowned ham, we will go down into details of each step of the production, we will visit the 4 pre ageing chambers, then we will move to the cellars where we will describe how the product achieve its PDO status. The visit will end with tasting of the ham plus other local cured meats such as culatello, the lunch will continue with a pasta main course and of course dessert.
The castle is medieval manor overlooking the Parma valley. Dating back to the XIII century and fully restored. it was the home of the count Pier Maria Rossi. He was a valorous knight fighting against the venetians on behalf of the Duke of Milan Filippo Maria Visconti. Later in life he build the Castle of Torrechiara from what was known as the ruins of Torrechiara, the remains of past strategic settlements. The castle is dedicated to Bianca Pellegrini who was his lover at the time. In particular he built the Golden Bedroom for her, a beautifully decorated space.
Italy’s cozy town of Parma has been known for Prosciutto di Parma for over 2,000 years. The secret recipes of these air-dried hams have changed hands throughout history within families. It is a product of man’s passion and skill, combined with nature. The Parma ham has put Italy on the global gastronomic map due to its uniqueness.
The micro-climate of Parma is very conducive to the ham production, with its dry and airy summers and cold winters. Humidity levels are moderate, while the air carries the smell of the sea and chestnut trees. To maintain the high quality of Parma ham, it must be kept away from variations in climate. The production area is restricted to a height less than 900 meters above sea level on the Parma hills, since regions lying above this height face a very cold and long winter. The production area must also be 5 kilometers away from the humid and foggy Via Emilia along the Po River. The limits are the Enza River on the east and the Stirone River on the west, which bring in fragrant sea breezes that roll down into Parma valley.
The curing of the ham is crucial to its quality. It is carried out by natural methods, even though they take as long as 12 months and require immense care, patience and skill. Traditions have evolved over time, with more refined breeding and farming procedures. This has made the pork sweeter and more tender.
Knowing the process of curing the meat is not enough. The ‘master salters’ from Parma have learned from their ancestors how to identify good pork legs, trim the hams by hand and apply salt properly to ensure outstanding quality. The latter is a deciding factor for determining the quality of the curing process and retaining the sweetness of the ham.
The Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma or Parma Ham Consortium was established in 1963. It started with 23 members and has now 180 members. Their mission is to maintain the quality and tradition of Parma ham by sticking to natural methods; salt and air are the only additives. With records kept regarding the origin, birth date and breeding method for each pig, all production stages are closely monitored by the Istituto Parma Qualita, an independent certifying body, in keeping with the rules of the Consortium. A special law was even laid down by the Italian government. The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) has been recently awarded to Parma air-dried ham, giving it copyright over the name.
The pigs from which Parma ham is made have to be heavy and their meat must be soft, yet firm. They have to be born and raised only on an authorized breeding farm in one of the 11 designated Northern and Central regions of Italy. Traditionally they are fed whey, a by-product of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. This imparts a unique flavor to their meat.
The hams are exposed to constant cold and humid conditions for 100 days, after which they are kept in large maturing rooms for 3 months. This way they are protected from the sun. The windows are constantly opened and closed for circulation of the countryside air. In the seventh month, a mixture of pork fat and pepper called sugnatura is hand-applied onto the open surface of the meat. This is meant to protect and soften it. The hams are then put in cantina or cellars for at least 5 months, so that they can slowly dry under close supervision. The producers are trained and experienced in detecting any quality defects by the sense of smell. The spillatura is a horse bone needle which is used to check the curing outcome, before assigning the precious label of ‘Parma Ham’.
The ham gets several imprints in the various stages of production. The breeder makes a permanent tattoo onto the hind legs of the piglets, consisting of the month of its birth and the identification code of the farm. At the slaughterhouse, the initials PP (for Prosciutto di Parma) are fire-branded onto the pork legs if they are worthy enough to be sent to the production line as Parma Ham. At the entry to the curing house, the legs are stamped with a metal seal having the Consortium code and the month and year when curing started. After passing all verification and regulatory tests, the legs are finally fire-branded with the 5-pointed Ducal Crown of the Consortium, along with the name, ‘Parma’. The producer’s code is added under the crown. This is the guarantee of a 100% natural and light Parma ham that is a product of age-old traditions.
A slice of Parma ham has a delicious country aroma; it is succulent and thin, with a distinctive salty-sweet taste. It is best enjoyed stand-alone and no other air-dried ham comes close to Parma Ham in bringing you this divine gastronomic experience.
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