TORONTO — Not all prosciutto is created equally. That was the message the Conzorzio Di Prosciutto di Parma delivered last week when it held an interactive session at Nella Cucina with media and guests.
Roberto Fracchioni, chef ambassador of the Conzorzio welcomed media by delivering a 20-minute instructional talk outlining how Prosciutto di Parma is produced and cured while chef Rob Gentile from Buca Restaurant led an interactive cooking lesson highlighting how the pork product can shine as the star ingredient of various dishes.
Fracchioni explained that Prosciutto di Parma is highly regarded as the epitome of the cured pork product and is regulated by strict laws that define the quality and characteristics represented by the Parma crown branded on each ham. The product is 100-per-cent natural and gluten free and made with only four ingredients: pork, sea salt, air and time, with no preservatives, additives or hormones. In order to be branded Prosciutto di Parma, the ham can only be produced in the countryside surrounding the city of Parma in North-Central Italy, where the dry, sweet air creates the optimum conditions for the natural curing of the ham. Additionally, Prosciutto di Parma can only be produced from Italian-born and bred pigs, raised according to the highest standards, on which they are monitored, inspected and traced. Highly experienced maestri salatori (salt masters) apply minimal sea salt to produce a ham with a savory-sweet flavour profile. As a result, Prosciutto di Parma tastes less salty than most other cured hams.
Gentile, who leads Buca Restaurant, was on hand to demonstrate how prosciutto can play a leading role in many dishes, highlighting an Italian menu favourite, pasta e fagioli, in which he sautéed the prosciutto as part of the base. Other dishes featured during the evening were involtini di prosciutto and prosciutto and cheese crepes, as well as melon soup with crisped prosciutto. And, of course, attendees were treated to the simplicity of eating prosciutto on its own.
Until recently, Prosciutto di Parma was sold in Canada under the names “The Original Prosciutto” and “Le Jambon Original” since the trademark “Parma” had been acquired by Canadian company, Maple Leaf. Today, due to the protection of Geographical Indications under CETA, Canadian foodservice operators and consumers can source the authentic, 100-per-cent natural ham at local retailers across the country under the correct designation, Prosciutto di Parma.
Though Prosciutto di Parma has been produced for more than 2,000 years, the Consorzio was founded in 1963 to protect and promote Prosciutto di Parma throughout the world. Since then, the Consorzio has grown into a family of 145 producers supplying approximately nine-million hams annually all over the world.