Famous for its intense flavour, Prosciutto Toscano is perhaps the most popular and healthiest cold cut to stuff inside an authentic Tuscan panino. Beginning in the Middle Ages Tuscan farmers would slaughter their pigs in winter and prepare their cured meats for the year to come. Around the fifteenth century, at the time of the Medici, the production of Prosciutto Toscano became regulated for the first time.In 1996, Prosciutto Toscano was awarded the coveted EU recognition of DOP or PDO. But what’s behind this great brand? Prosciutto Toscano is made with pigs that are born, bred, fattened and slaughtered in Tuscany and in other neighbouring regions. Only fresh pig legs are used, and the preparation process must take place exclusively in production factories situated in the Tuscan region. Here’s how the most famous Tuscan prosciutto is made:
- Pig legs are covered with a mixture of salt, pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries and garlic.
- After the seasoning process, legs are put to rest in a cell at low temperatures for about 3-4 weeks (usually in the months of December and January)
- Hams are hung at a controlled temperature for about three months (February and March), for further dehydration and maturation - Between June and July when the air is dry, the hams are covered with the “sugna,” a mixture of ground pork fat, rice flour, salt and pepper. This treatment protects hams against excessive dehydration and keeps the meat soft.
- They say that the secret of the Prosciutto’s success is given primarily by the perfect climate for curing. The curing stage is done in special rooms where the hams ripen slowly with optimal conditions of temperature and humidity. -The curing period should not be less than 10 months for hams with a final weight between 7,5 and 8,5 Kg, and to 12 months for hams weighing more than 8.5 kg. After a long aging, a technical commission analyzes the moisture and salt levels and checks the olfative characteristics by introducing a horse bone in various parts of the meat. Once it passes this final test, the prosciutto is fire branded and is ready to be sold. Prosciutto Toscano DOP is rich in protein, minerals such as iron and magnesium, vitamin B and has a high component of unsaturated fatty acids–the kind that are good for you!. It’s produced throughout the region so you can easily find it at supermarkets, salumerie, rosticcerie and your local vinaio.