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To obtain the so yearned five-pointed ducal crown, the official mark of the Consortium, the Parma Ham needs to pass all the quality control tests, as well as many production phases. The main figure of the process surely is the master Ham salter, a position that requires many years of experience to take mastery of it; nevertheless, even if it can be really surprising, the Parma Ham is not salty, but well known as “the sweet Ham” with a very delicate aroma.
How Everything begins.
First of all, the Maestro Salatore salts the pigskin and the muscular parts of the 15 kg fresh legs, that are then refrigerated at a temperature that goes from 1°C to 4°C for a week. They are consequently salted again and left for another two weeks. Of course, other preservatives are not used, just salt, associated with time and patience.
Let it rest, and let is rest for some more time.
Next, the Hams rests for almost 80 days in refrigerated rooms; they are periodically washed and brushed so that the excess of salt is removed. During this period, the colour of the meat becomes darker. Now the Hams are brought into ventilated rooms opened on the outside, because temperature and humidity help to gradually dry the Hams. This period lasts about three months and it is very important for the Parma Ham, as it is now that it obtains his typical and distinctive aroma.
A process called “sugna” to seal the exposed part.
Later, all the surfaces of the muscle that are exposed to the air are covered manually with a paste of lard (sugna), salt and pepper to avoid that the exposed parts get dry too quickly. The hams are now moved to dark rooms with less air and no light and they stay here until the curing is completed. The minimum curing of a Parma Ham is 12 months, starting form the first salting, but there is not a limit of time and some Hams can be cured even for more than 3 years.
How it become Parma ham.
Finally, after a year, it is the moment of quality tests: an inspector punches the Hams in five specific parts, using a special needle and smelling it after every puncture. Thanks to this procedure, it is possible to determine if that one is a genuine Parma Ham, so if it deserves the mark of the consortium, only given by the IPQ, Istituto Parma Qualità. Now you know how much detailed, hard and long is the Parma Ham making process: the producers and master Ham salters have just one main purpose, to give the meat the unique and inimitable sweet taste, as well as its softness, of course thanks to the right application of the salt and to the meticulous observance of the production phases.