Is Prosciutto Crudo Raw? Italian Food Facts

Some lovely-looking prosciutto crudo

Prosciutto crudo is one of the most popular Italian foods. It includes its two most well-known varieties, ham, and prosciutto de San Daniele. The American term “ham” is not the same thing. What about melt-in-your mouth ham that is both sweet and salty? This is something different.

We have compiled some of our favorite facts about Italy’s Prosciutto Crudo, from how the Romans thought it was to be to its actual raw state.

Prosciutto crudo… or cotto?

Although we might abbreviate the word “prosciutto” (pronunciation pro-SHOOT oh), one prosciutto (“ham”) will not be the same as another. Crudo in Italian means raw. “Cotto” means cooked. Prosciutto cotto is the best choice if you want ham just like at home. If you don’t choose the other type, you’ll be disappointed.

Virginia, prosciutto Crudo is raw Ham

It’s not as simple as it sounds. Salt is used to dry cure the ham, which allows it to be preserved for many months. It takes quite a while to dry cure: The San Daniele and Parma varieties are both dry-cured for at most 13 months.

An Italian ham is less than 25% its original weight during curing.


Hanging Parma ham

This is due to the salt’s moisture loss. What is the result? The result is far more intense.

Please, rear legs only

Prosciutto di Parma and prosciutto Di San Daniele must be derived from the rear legs. Specifications for pigs are not limited to this. Parma Ham, for instance, requires that the pigs be from the region, have cereal grains as their feed, and be able to eat Parmigiano Reggiano cheese whey. Pigs also need to be at least 9 months old, weigh at least 340 lbs, and be able to be slaughtered when they are ready.

Proper prosciutto crudo, like prosciutto di Parma and prosciutto di San Daniele, can never be frozen…

D.O.P.-regulated foods are subject to strict rules. This is one example. The ban on freezing applies to all production stages. Therefore, pigs must be hacked and sent immediately to their production area.

…or modified with chemical additives or preservatives or even sugar

What is the other prohibited ingredient? You cannot add sugar, smoke, spices or water to your nitrites. You’re only eating a pig with salt. That’s it.

Prosciutto’s taste is affected by the environment.


The Prosciutto di San Daniele association states that the maturation must occur at San Daniele del Friuli because the ham’s flavor and texture are influenced by the winds from the Adriatic, the Alps, and the region’s temperature and humidity. It doesn’t matter if a non-connoisseur can tell these nuances, it is the reason behind “D.O.P.” The association for prosciutto di San Daniele says that any ham that claims to be prosciutto de Parma must follow strict rules about how it’s made. Also, it must be made in the region, so that it has those environmental factors.

Parma and San Daniele don’t have to be the only prosciutto crudo producers that are protected

There are actually 10 Italian regions that bear the “D.O.P.” designation to preserve cured ham. What about the rest? Prosciutto di Modena, Toscano and Veneto (Berico–Euganeo), Carpegna and Norcia, Sauris and Cuneo and the speck from Alto Adige. So many delicious options… yum!

Prosciutto crudo and parma ham are better for you then you think

Prosciutto di Parma is a two-inch slice, which equals about one ounce. It has 75 calories, 6g protein, 6g fat, and 2/3 of the “good” unsaturated type. It is especially rich in free amino acids which are a quick-metabolizing form of protein.

Prosciutto crudo is loved by Napoleon’s army, Cato, Hannibal and even the bishops

According to the association for Parma Ham, Cato the Elder was the first to write about Parma’s ham production. He was writing in 100 B.C. We also know that the Romans considered Parma hams to be one of their finest banquet delicacies. They often paired them with figs and other fruits. Even more, we know that Hannibal stopped his conquests just north of Parma in the 3rd Century B.C. to enjoy local wine, bread…and the ancient prosciutto di Parma!

Meanwhile, prosciutto di San Daniele has a storied history, too. The Council of Trent of 1563 was a meeting of bishops to discuss reform of the Church. They wanted their prosciutto so badly that an armed guard was needed to provide them with food. Napoleon’s General Massena, who conquered the Venetian Republic of 1797, kept a large number of the hams.

So we hope you love prosciutto crudo, too!


Pasta with a ragu made from prosciutto di Parma, Ferrara, Italy. Delicious!

It’s best to make it in Italy. You can either buy it in a butcher’s or grocery store and they will slice it for you. Then, pair it with fresh melons or grapes as an antipasto before dinner. You can also try it in a panino for lunch. Almost every paninoteca offers it. You might find such options in places where it is popular, like a pasta with ragu of prosciutto. It’s worth it.

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