18 January, 2007

Hunt for Prosciutto

Do you remember the first time you had prosciutto? I do, about fifteen years ago, it took me about a year to not be afraid to pronounce it right. Since then I have become fascinated with air cured hams; so simple, just meat, salt and time. I remember when I first moved into our house(about two and a half years ago), I thought the crawl space under the living room would be perfect for a “cave” where I could cure a ham. It has been over a year now that I have been reading about the preparation and I am still not ready to go for the whole leg. However here are the results of the first test.

The experiment started the first week of December, with a recipe for Lardo from Ruhlman's Charcuterie book. I used a couple of pieces of pork belly; they cured in the fridge for ten days, then into the drying box.

Day one in the drying box, December 18

The drying box is an old cabinet I saved from the kitchen renovation. I put some black landscaping fabric over the front to cut down on the light but still allow air to circulate.

So I let it go for twenty four days. I tried to check it daily, had a little chart to mark down the temp and humidity, kept a bowl of water in there to try and boost the humidity a bit, and after three weeks...

Okay is doesn't look too different, but they are not black and covered with mold either. Let's start slicing.

Slice this stuff like smoked salmon, hold the knife almost parallel to the meat and skim a piece off the top.

It didn't quite taste like di Parma or even di San Danielle, but it hinted at it. The texture was very nice but uneven. I think I need to boost my humidity a bit more. But in the mean time I have some perfectly edible cured meat. The Lardo recipe was more about the fat rather than the meat and it stressed that unless you had very high quality fat, the result may not be so good. Well the book was right, the fat on its own is not very interesting, but I paid $1.29/lb for my pork belly and with a little salt and a little time I got something very delicious.

Okay so you're not ready to start hanging meat in your basement but you want some prosciutto, Here are some interesting places to go:

Bari Foods. Grand and May in Chicago. This was where I first tasted prosciutto. It is a nice little Italian grocery store that has become very famous for their sandwiches. If you want a sandwich, get the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. They also make their own sausage on premises, my favorite being the Barese sausage.

Caputo's. They have a couple locations, I have only been to the one on Harlem. Unbelievable Italian grocery store Mecca. Very good prices. Make the trip, it is worth it. Very Very crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.

Scott's Market. Just North of Route 30 on Western AVE. in Chicago Heights. For my petit saucissons in the Southland, this is a good place to go. They have a well kept deli case, a small selection of Italian imports, and incredibly good sausage made by the folks who ran the Specialty Shop.

And for my friends in the CMH, I am sure there are lots of good places to get prosciutto, but why mess around just go to Carfagna's.


PS. For pronouncing prosciutto say PRO-shoo-toh, if you are at Caputo's you may have to add the word Crudo, less you get boiled ham. And if you happen to be in Brooklyn, square it off and just say PRO-shute.


Anonymous said...

You are always entertaining. Did you try your prosciutto on an egg and brie sandwich? M

mac said...

Thanks mom. No I didn't think to make the sandwich, but I will. I just need an egg. If I made my own cheese, it could be an industry unto itself...Think of it: An egg from the girls, ham and cheese from the basement and the no-knead bread...yum...anyone else for egg brie and prosciutto?

E said...

Egg, ham and Brie? I'll take two, Utah. Where most guys imagine their potential rumpus room, you forsaw some sort of meat prepping area. You truly are a visionary.