Obtained by cooking pork leg, prosciutto cotto (“cooked ham”) is the cold cut Italians love most: according to data collected by Assica (Italian association of meat and cold cut processors), in 2017 a total of 270 metric tonnes have been consumed, namely 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.) per capita. There are 3 factors determining this: children have a sweet tooth for it, it has an accessible cost and – compared to other cold cuts – it is perceived as healthy.
After the slaughtering phase, the pork legs are deboned and defatted. Successively, brine made of water, salt, and flavourings is injected into the meat. The leg is then ‘massaged’ to make the penetration of the brine as homogenous as possible. At this point the ham undergoes the cooking phase – the process that affects the flavour and shelf life of the final product.
There are different categories of prosciutto cotto. Its quality indicator is the percentage of humidity, which depends on the quantity of water added to the brine along with the massaging method and cooking system. In ‘simple’ prosciutto cotto, the rate of humidity will be less than or equal to 82%; in scelto (‘choice’) prosciutto cotto, the maximum humidity is 79.5%; and in the alta qualità (‘high quality’) version, the humidity can be no greater than 76.5%.
Homemade prosciutto cotto
Considered the little brother of the better-known prosciutto crudo (“raw ham”), the prosciutto cotto – when of a high quality and processed by hand using selected and accurately cured pork legs – reaches incredibly high quality levels and holds its own against Parma or San Daniele ham.