Dalmatian dry-cured ham (pršut)

Dalmatian dry-cured ham (pršut)

The most famous and most appreciated Dalmatian cured meat product is of course the dry-cured ham which is equally enjoyed every day as it is at festive occasions as an essential appetiser with an intense sweet-savoury flavour.

 

The dry-cured pršut ham is made from the fresh thigh of a specially fattened pig which can weigh up to as much as 16 kilogrammes. After slaughtering the legs and pelvic bones around the hip socket are removed from the thighs and then the cleaned thighs are placed in a special room at a temperature of no more than six degrees Celsius for one day. Then the side of the thigh with the skin is turned upwards so that the excess liquid can gradually flow from the meat of the future pršut. Pršut is then rubbed with a generous amount of fine and coarse sea salt. Next the prepared thighs are left for at least a week to stand, after which the remaining blood and water is released from them and then they are salted well again. In order to speed up the elimination of the excess liquid, it is necessary to gradually load the dry-cured hams with weights, and with this process a good density of the meat is also achieved. The thigh is placed between two planks, and the upper one has increasingly more weight placed on it day after day. When laying out the dry-cured ham be careful that flies do not lay their eggs on the exposed parts of the meat around the bone, this can be solved by coating these areas with a mixture of pepper and vinegar or oil and garlic.

 

Pršut is then hung on hooks in a room for smoking in which the smoke is obtained by burning the wood of beech trees, oaks or hornbeam. After smoking the ham is dried for at least a month in a strong bura wind because it will naturally dry out the meat and give it the necessary firmness. After that the pršut matures hanging in a room with a stabilised microclimate in which the air is constantly flowing, and in order that the meat does not dry out too much, the pršut is also exposed to the warm, south-east wind – the jugo. The Dalmatian dry-cured ham is usually ready for consumption after a year of drying, and the meat itself must be uniform in a colour which ranges from a dark to light pink colour with a white or slightly pink rind. It is cut into thin slices and served with homemade bread and cheese.