Making prosciutto from scratch is nerve-wracking. I started this project almost a year ago. During that time, my brother-in-law, who is the Chef at Bourbon Steak, also made a prosciutto. He started his a few months before mine. I saw him on July 4, and he said that his was a failure — it had caught a bad bacteria and didn’t turn out. So, I was pretty worried. I can’t compete with Omri’s amazing cooking, and you just never know what’s going to happen when a recipe takes a year to make!
I wish I had a few more pictures of the beginning of the process. I started by taking a whole ham, packing it in salt, and letting it sit in the refridgerator for 45 days. About every two weeks, I flipped it over and repacked it in the salt. After that was done, I took it out, rinsed if off, covered it in fresh ground pepper, packed it into a cheesecloth bag, and hung it in my charcuterie fridge, holding it at 55 degrees and about 80% relative humidity. And there it ages for six months.
After six months, I unwrapped the ham. Now here comes the hard part. When you unwrap the ham, it is going to be covered in an unappealing mold and will have some very pungent odors. Relax, take a deep breath, grab a still bristle brush, and scrape off all the mold. Mold is only on the surface. I scraped off all the mold, and then repacked the ham in another round of black pepper, put it back into the fridge — this time unwrapped– and let it rest for another couple of months.
If you’re lucky, the mold is only on the outside, and what you’re left with is delicious prosciutto. If you’re unlucky, then bacteria can grow down the bone. Because salt doesn’t penetrate the bone as fast as the meat, that’s where the bacteria usually penetrates first. When that happens it’s called “bone sour,” and you’ve just wasted a whole ham and a year!
Fortunately, today when I cut into the prosciutto, it was perfect. Well, almost perfect. I did a terrible job of butchery. But if you ignore my inept knifework, you still have a pretty good looking prosciutto.
Here’s what it looked like when I cut it open.
I cut the skin away and put a piece of it onto the meat slicer to cut those characteristic paper thin slices:
It’s just as good as any Italian prosciutto I’ve had. Delicious just plain.
There’s a zillion ways to eat prosciutto, but for this first try I wanted something simple.
A classic Italian presentation is prosciutto with Parmesan, olive oil, and arugula.