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Tips & Info

Choosing the Best Prosciutto

The variety at the deli counter is growing with more and more choices, but, in most cases, staff are not terribly knowledgeable about the products they sell. How do you know the prosciutto you are purchasing is authentic Italian prosciutto rather than a domestic or Canadian brand? Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you are getting a quality product.

Like cheese, wine and pasta, authentic Italian prosciutto is highly regulated in order to ensure the quality of the product is consistently maintained. However, since true prosciutto is so highly regarded, knock off versions abound throughout the world, and, due to USDA regulations on cured meats, certain imports are banned entry from the country. Therefore, American companies attempt to create domestic versions of these popular products as well.

Authentic Italian prosciutto reflects the region in which it is produced.  Each variety has a distinct flavor profile. In the United States, the two most commonly sold types of Italian prosciutto are Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele. Prosciutto di Parma is produced in a specific area of Parma, Italy from a specially selected breed of pigs who feed on a regulated diet that includes whey from the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese also produced in this zone. Prosciutto di San Daniele is produced in the area of Udine, located in the far north-east area of Italy. The pigs used to make Prosciutto di San Daniele are bred and raised only in Italy and, likewise, their diet is highly regulated. Both types of prosciutto carry the “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO/DOP) seal. Additionally, there are consortiums for Parma and San Daniele prosciutto. Producers within each consortium are legally bound to uphold the strict quality and production standards required to make this renowned product. Products that adhere to these standards receive the mark of the consortium certifying it as an authentic product.

When you are shopping for authentic Italian prosciutto, first look for the PDO/DOP seal on the prosciutto packaging. Next, look for the Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele stamp branded onto the prosciutto itself to ensure you are buying the real thing.

            Authentic Italian Prosciutto di Parma                         Prosciutto di San Daniele

Prosciutto without these marks indicate a potentially inferior product and/or one that is not necessarily produced in Italy. Finally, Prosciutto di San Daniele is readily identifiable by the trotter, or foot, of the pig that remains at the end of the prosciutto. While available at high end meat counters, Prosciutto di San Daniele is very limited in production and will likely cost more than Prosciutto di Parma. However, many vendors in the United States carry a product called “Prosciutto San Daniele.” Unfortunately it is not the same as the Italian version. This is a brand of Canadian prosciutto that is often mistaken for the Italian Prosciutto di San Daniele even though it costs much less.

We hope the next time you are at the deli counter, these tips will help you make the best choice when selecting prosciutto.