Prosciutto Party

Posted by on Sep 19, 2011 | 0 comments

Every September, the city of Parma sets aside an entire week and a half to celebrate one of its most cherished products, the world-renowned Prosciutto di Parma. During the festivalprosciuttifici–the factories in which the Italian ham legs are aged–open their doors to the public and offer guided tours followed by refreshments and a sampling of their delectable cured meats. Most prosciuttifici are situated in the hilly town of Langhirano, about a forty-minute drive from downtown Parma. Before the advent of air conditioning, Langhirano had an ideal climate for curing meat because of the combination of the vento marino (marine wind) that arrives from the Mediterranean sea across Liguria and Tuscany, which is said helps give prosciutto its sweetness, and the high altitude of the town, which ensures that the weather will neither be too cold or too hot with the changing seasons.

Although the facilities where Prosciutto di Parma is aged today are more modern and sanitary than in medieval times, Prosciutto di Parma DOP remains an unadulterated food, containing solely salt and strictly well-reared Italian pork. There are strict laws, regulated by the Consorzio di Prosciutto di Parma that ensure the authenticity of this traditional product and protect it from imitators. By contrast, nowadays non-DOP Italian cured meats are made largely from Dutch and German pork that is shipped to Italy, making the consumer more likely to dine on meat from pigs that have been poorly treated and raised in factory farms. (This meat is said to be leaner, and currently the market demands leaner meat.) If you are concerned about animal welfare and the preservation of traditional Italian products, make sure to look for DOP labeled cured meats.

Another gratifying aspect of the festival tours, besides gaining an understanding of where your food comes from, witnessing the care that goes into these products by the passionate producers, and sampling these amazing time-honored products on location, is the fact that tour is entirely free, the bus ride to Langhirano and back included.

The festival is now over, but that certainly won’t stop me from continuing the celebration. All I need to do is unwrap the delicately folded deli paper as I would the most precious of gifts, and enjoy a piece of this perfectly thinly sliced, delicate, salty, and sweet Italian masterpiece.