There’s something in the air in the town of San Daniele del Friuli and it’s part of what makes Prosciutto di San Daniele so unique.
Many people know that to be acknowledged as Prosciutto di San Daniele, the prosciutto must be produced exclusively in the hilly region of San Daniele del Friuli, in the Udine province of Friuli Venezia Giulia. This is Italy’s most northeasterly region, nestled on the border with Austria and Slovenia.
You may also know that the prosciutto is made with only the meat from Italian pigs and sea salt, with no hidden preservatives or additives, so it’s as natural as can be.
But fewer people know that the very wind that naturally air cures the prosciutto for a minimum of 13 months is in itself special. Mother Nature herself has a hand in the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele – the Alps, the Adriatic Sea, the wind and the Tagliamento river all have a role to play in the production of our favourite prosciutto.
They all combine to create the unique microclimate that allows us to naturally air-cure our prosciutto without the need for any artificial curing methods, just natural breezes.
Fresh, clean winds flow down from the Carnic Alps to meet the warmer breezes coming in from the Adriatic Sea creating nature’s own ventilation system.
The winds swirl together so that the resinous fragrances descending from the north mix with the salty notes coming in from the coast.
The uniqueness of this situation is further enhanced by the way both the humidity and the temperature are regulated by the glacially-formed soils and waters of the Tagliamento, one of the last rivers in Europe to retain its original course.
Stretching 178 km, the river has been the subject of many scientific investigations over the years, as scientists have looked into its peculiar characteristics. Researchers from across Europe have studied its natural processes and ecosystems, while trying to learn more about what makes this stretch of water so special.
Of course, the people of the region have known for centuries that the river is unique and filled with special properties, but now the rest of the world is catching up with what we have always instinctively known!
Not only is it of scientific importance, it’s also a famously beautiful river too, a picture-perfect part of nature that offers day-trippers and sightseers a remarkably peaceful place to explore, to dip their feet into and in which to practice their photography skills.
Walking around the resting rooms in any one of the producers of Prosciutto di San Daniele, in large buildings that are dotted around the outskirts of the town, visitors are embraced by the unmistakable aroma of the town’s most famous product.
It is in these rooms, with windows open to the winds, that the prosciutto is natural air-cured for a minimum of 13 months.
Here, salted thighs are placed in special rooms to rest under conditions of constant humidity, ranging between 70-80%, and at a temperature between 4°C and 6°C. This resting phase allows the salt to gradually and uniformly penetrate and become evenly distributed inside the meat.
And it’s in these rooms that microclimate meets expertise, and an exceptional sort of alchemy is born.
Blending knowledge with nature, prosciutto masters perform the skills that have been handed down from generation to generation, using centuries-old knowledge and a precise method that has remained unchanged as the years have passed by.
Back in 1996, Prosciutto di San Daniele was granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the European Union which means that the production methods and small area of origin are all now protected by European Law.
To be called Prosciutto di San Daniele it must come from San Daniele and be made according to trusted methods, specific rules, precise procedures and strict inspections.
But now that you have learned all about nature’s role in the making of Prosciutto di San Daniele, you may be surprised to know that it has other uses too.
The microclimate of San Daniele isn’t just ideal for producing prosciutto, it has also proved to be useful in preserving the ancient manuscripts in our Biblllioteca Guarneriana library too.
The library was first founded in the town in 1466 and the same conditions that naturally air cures our prosciutto also preserves the library’s ancient manuscripts, with no need for air conditioning.
As with so many other things in San Daniele, we let nature look after us and provide for so many of our needs.