Recently we were lucky enough to get involved in a community project involving the lifecycle of two pigs that were reared by a local artist and farmer Kat Wood before their meat was distributed between local charities and restaurants. We received a leg in order to make an Italian style prosciutto. We wanted to do a traditional style cure, respecting the lives of the pigs to the fullest, staying true to age-old methods that ensure maximum flavour development.
Kat's Gloucestershire Old Spots
Kat’s pigs were Gloucestershire Old Spots a rare breed that produces extremely high-quality meat. The pigs were reared on a hill farm in the Peak District National Park and allowed to roam freely. They were fed with a diet consisting of produce from her farm, veg from supermarket or grocery scrap boxes, as well as spent grain supplied by local craft brewers.
They naturally rooted and foraged, a behaviour that churns the land they inhabit making it useful for further farming and regeneration.
Pigs are highly intelligent, sociable animals and farming should respect this. Pigs thrive on space and company, which is often disregarded in commercial and intensive farming. In terms of the meat we use for charcuterie, quality is really dependent on the diet of the pig, and the lifestyle it has led. The maturing of prosciutto and its intense flavour profile relies on the amino acid breakdown within the meat, and the mouthfeel of the fat present within the marbling.
The meat from Kat’s pigs was a healthy pink shade, darker on the more well worked muscles, with speckled marbling, all things that are indicative of a healthy life and things that will ultimately lead to superior charcuterie.
A Guide To Making Prosciutto
Set up with a clean surface, and soapy water on hand. Avoid touching the pig too much with your bare hands (wear gloves). Trim around the hip joint if needed, follow as close to it as you can. Remove the socket at the ball. Trim anything that hangs, and cut so it's behind the bone. – it needs to have a flat surface for when we press it.
Wash the ham with wine or vinegar, dry overnight uncovered in the fridge. Salt, rub thoroughly in, roughly like a massage, then stack salt on top, press the meat with equal weight. 1 day per kilo of meat.
Be especially careful to pack the moisture around the exposed femur bone, really press the salt into the ham.
Check the ham every couple of days, and apply extra salt if necessary, as all exposed areas need to be covered during this period.
On the last day of curing the ham must feel firm. If not, re-salt until the ham again until firm.
12- 14 days curing.
Alternatively, an equilibrium curing method can be used, salt cure the prosciutto for 7 days, then use an equilibrium cure with 3.5% salt and 0.025% nitrates, in a zip lock bag. This will take add an extra week onto the curing but is more accurate.
Squeeze excess moisture out of the ham by massaging it, particularly along the femoral artery, push along the length.
Hang the ham at 10-15c for 3 months 75% humidity, till it has lost a third of its original weight.
Next mix lard, rice flour, and black pepper, and coat all exposed areas of the ham, wrap in cheesecloth and hang to mature for up to 2 years. Check regularly for any imperfections, rinse off the unwanted mould with vinegar, skewer the ham and check for off aromas.
The ham should have lost half of its original weight when finished.
Keep checking back on the blog for further updates on the development of the Prosciutto in this article.