By Alison Ver Halen.
Adherents to the Paleo lifestyle have gained a reputation for loving meat and scandalizing our friends and family members who are sure we’re clogging our arteries and giving ourselves cancer. But we know that, not only is meat not the disease-inducing villain it’s been made out to be, but it’s actually one of the healthiest and most nutritious things we can put on our plates. That said, there’s no reason not to wrap up your veggies in some quality prosciutto, like the prosciutto di San Daniele.
Prosciutto is similar to bacon, but they have some important differences, starting with the fact that bacon comes from the belly of the pig while prosciutto comes from the pig’s hind leg (a.k.a. the ham). This means prosciutto tends to be significantly less fatty than bacon, so you’re less likely to be judged by your well meaning but ill-informed friends.
It also means you might be better off with bacon if you’re trying to stay in ketosis, but if you find a Paleo diet that’s slightly lower in fat tends to work better for you, then prosciutto would be ideal for your diet.
The second major difference is the process by which they’re made. Bacon is cured using salt and seasonings and then smoked. It is usually sold raw and should be cooked before being consumed.
Prosciutto di San Daniele is cured, using just salt. The ham is then left to age for 13 months, more than a year, which draws out the moisture, intensifies the flavor of the ham, and allows it to mature. Like bacon, prosciutto is also sold raw, but because the curing process takes more than a year, prosciutto can safely be eaten. You’ll most likely find prosciutto wrapping fruits and vegetables on an appetizer plate or garnishing salads.
Prosciutto is definitely Paleo friendly, but moderation is key. Just because we recognize that cured meats are not quite the killer society has made them out to be does not mean it is advisable to eat them all day every day. An occasional treat? Absolutely. A main course of every meal? Not so much.
Fortunately, prosciutto is so flavorful that a little goes a long way. You can throw a few strips on your hors d’oeuvres or in your salads and enjoy all the salty, meaty goodness without feeling any ill effects afterwards.
“There are so many ways to use prosciutto,” said Marla Sarris, owner and founder of Paleo Porn. “It’s an excellent ingredient to use in appetizers. You can wrap cubed melon or pineapple in prosciutto, use it as a protein on salad, or in a lettuce wrap served like a paleo sub sandwich.”
The main reason the paleo lifestyle favors meat is because of the nutrient density and prosciutto is no exception. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, it also comes loaded with potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and a host of B vitamins, all of which are essential for us to maintain optimal health and live up to our full potential.
But caution is advised when deciding where to buy prosciutto from if we want to keep it strictly paleo. When it comes to making sure you’re getting the highest-quality prosciutto available, you can’t go wrong with San Daniele. This prosciutto consists of only two ingredients: Italian pigs and sea salt. There are no hidden additives and no chemical preservatives. The preservation is all in the salt and the drying process. That means everyone currently looking for meats without any added nitrates or nitrites will be happy with their choice in Prosciutto di San Daniele.
Unlike the San Daniele producers, many other producers of prosciutto today use chemicals to speed up the curing process and add color to their product, not to mention sweeteners to appeal to consumers who have become accustomed to eating sugar in everything. Not so with Prosciutto di San Daniele.
When researching the producer of your prosciutto, make sure the pigs are raised responsibly, and nothing is added except salt and maybe some natural spices. Performing all this research takes time and effort, but the information is out there and it’s worth it to know you’re investing in the highest-quality food possible. Both your taste buds and your body will thank you for it.
“If you’re checking the ingredients and sourcing your prosciutto well, you should be buying a product that is made from simply pork and salt,” said Sarris. “I tend not to buy too many processed or packaged foods, but I also have no interest in curing meat myself, so prosciutto has been a semi-regular purchase that I tend to have on hand.” The purchase of Prosciutto di San Daniele guarantees a product that has NO additives or preservatives. No added sugar or colorings. Nothing but pork and salt.
The people of San Daniele del Friuli in Italy have been making prosciutto for centuries and the ancient practice has been handed down from generation to generation. The Italian government recognizes the quality of the prosciutto produced in San Daniele, and as a result, created legislation that requires all the prosciutto be made only in the city of San Daniele del Friuli and in no other community. The legislation covers every step of the process, from how the pigs are raised to how the prosciutto is sliced. The result is a delicious product you can enjoy while still feeling your best!
Prosciutto Melon Wrap-Ups
Recipe courtesy Palo Plan
½ medium cantaloupe or honeydew melon
4 ounces Prosciutto San Daniele
Fresh mint sprigs
Carefully slice cantaloupe into 1-inch wedges. Remove and discard the rinds.
Wrap each cantaloupe slice with prosciutto. Secure with a toothpick, if needed.
Garnish with fresh mint and serve chilled or at room temperature.
This recipe was originally published on the Paleo Plan website at www.paleoplan.com.
Quick Stuffed Peppers
Serves: 6 as a snack or appetizer
• 1/2 pound precooked chicken
• 6 thin slices Prosciutto San Daniele
• 6 mini bell peppers
If the chicken is not already in chunks or cubes, cut it into 1-inch pieces. Cut a hole in the top of each bell pepper, around the stem, and empty out the seeds. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each piece of chicken. 1/2 a strip of prosciutto will go all the way around a piece of chicken, but you can continue wrapping until you’ve used the full strip of prosciutto if you so desire. Stuff each piece of wrapped chicken into a mini bell pepper. Serve immediately
Alison Ver Halen has been writing ever since she learned her alphabet. She lives just outside Chicago with her faithful husky and has been pursuing her dream of paying the bills with her writing since 2012. You can see her short stories and book reviews at alisonverhalen.com.