The production process of Prosciutto di San Daniele is the result of an ancient artisan tradition that comes to life in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
This standard bearer of Italian taste, known throughout the world for its unmistakable flavour and texture, is the result of a series of fundamental stages that come to life through experience handed down from generation to generation.
No additives or preservatives are used in this production process, which has maintained its integrity through the centuries. The introduction of technology has been limited exclusively to perfecting the organisation and management of the product within the facilities dedicated to ham production.
All stages in the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele take place exclusively in the 31 ham factories in the San Daniele del Friuli area. The Consortium of Prosciutto di San Daniele is responsible for ensuring that each step in the production process complies with the standards set out in the Production Regulations, in order to guarantee the highest quality of a PDO product.
Prosciutto di San Daniele: a PDO icon born from the selection of the best raw materials
Talking about Prosciutto di San Daniele means talking about a product rooted in a rich historical and geographical heritage. Its production is closely linked to the territory of San Daniele del Friuli, located in the heart of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The geographical position of the town and its particular microclimate provide ideal conditions for the curing of pork legs. Here, the warm currents of the Adriatic Sea meet the cooler, drier currents from the Carnic Alps, while the Tagliamento river acts as a natural thermoregulator.
But ‘San Daniele air’ is not the only element that contributes to the taste and authenticity of the product. The careful selection of the pork legs and the use of natural sea salt are other features that distinguish this high-quality ham.
Prosciutto di San Daniele comes from pigs that are born, raised and slaughtered exclusively in Italy, specifically in the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Tuscany, Marche, Abruzzo and Lazio, scrupulously following the guidelines of the Specifications concerning breeding and feeding. Each Prosciutto di San Daniele leg comes from selected pigs belonging to the Italian Large White, Landrace and Duroc heavy breeds. In addition, pigs, both pure and hybrid, of the basic Large White and Landrace breeds, conforming to the standards of the Italian Herd Book, and animals derived from the Duroc breed are allowed.
The third element that contributes to the production of a San Daniele PDO is the salt, which must strictly be sea salt of Italian origin. The taste and balance of Prosciutto di San Daniele comes from these three ‘simple’ ingredients that determine its high quality. Prosciutto di San Daniele is therefore much more than just a food; it is an authentic expression of the culture of San Daniele del Friuli, a gastronomic treasure that celebrates the tradition and art of the master prosciutto makers who have always worked in this region.
The arrival of the legs and the cooling
The basis of an authentic San Daniele PDO is the use of legs from pigs born, bred and slaughtered in the ten regions indicated in the Production Specifications. The fresh leg destined for production must arrive at San Daniele del Friuli within a maximum of 120 hours following slaughtering, with a minimum weight of 12.5 kg and a constant ratio between lean mass and fat layer.
Once the pig legs arrive at the ham factory, they immediately undergo selection by the master ham makers. In the event of aesthetic or physiological defects, the legs are automatically excluded from processing. After the preliminary conformity check, the legs are transferred to special refrigerated rooms.
Here, they are kept in such a way as to ensure that the meat reaches a uniform temperature of around 0°C. This is an absolutely necessary step: this procedure allows the meat to be better prepared for subsequent operations.
Once this preliminary phase has been completed, the operators affix a stamp that certifies the start date of the San Daniele ham processing and allows the duration of the curing process to be calculated precisely.
Let us now move on to another stage in the processing of Prosciutto di San Daniele, trimming.
This process consists in removing parts of excess fat and muscle fraction on the inner side of the pork leg.
Trimming a leg is essential for several reasons: it allows any imperfections in the cut to be corrected and facilitates subsequent salt penetration.
Let’s not forget that one of the key ingredients in the production of San Daniele PDO is sea salt, which is why we must now go into detail about the salting phase.
Salt is one of the fundamental elements behind the curing of the product. The production process involves the exclusive use of dry-applied sea salt: chemicals and additives are banned in the production of Prosciutto di San Daniele and a strict, age-old process is followed.
San Daniele PDO is an authentic natural product, made exclusively with Italian pork legs and sea salt. In addition to giving it its characteristic flavour, the salt also acts as the only preservative. This means that the ham is free of additives and nitrates, guaranteeing an authentic and genuine culinary experience. Its production respects strict artisan traditions and is a testament to the purity and quality of the ingredients used.
Once the thighs have been covered with salt and kept on a horizontal surface, they are placed in a special cell where they are left to rest, allowing the pork to begin to release moisture.
The duration of the salting period is determined by the weight of the leg itself: one day in salt for every kilo of weight of the relevant piece.
Throughout this period, the leg is left to rest in the environmental conditions described above.
The next steps in the production process
The production process of Prosciutto di San Daniele is characterised by numerous steps with rules regulated by the Production Regulations.
In the following pages we will analyse all the details of the production of San Daniele PDO, along the journey that brings it to our tables.