Prosciutto di San Daniele and St. Valentine’s Day

By Francine Segan. Prosciutto di San Daniele, with its pretty pink color and luscious flavor, is especially perfect to enjoy …


By Francine Segan.

Prosciutto di San Daniele, with its pretty pink color and luscious flavor, is especially perfect to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. Also, interestingly, both prosciutto and Valentine’s Day date to ancient Roman times.
Valentine’s Day is named for a 3rd century Christian martyr, but has origins in the ancient Roman February festival of Lupercalia. Food writer Mimi Sheraton tells us about prosciutto’s history, “Preserving pork, and especially the hind legs, is a craft that dates back some two thousand years. Early on, ancient Romans became skilled at preserving ham, or what Italians named prosciutto. Gradually, they devised the craft of packing each leg heavily with sea salt and hanging it to air-dry…The result is firm but supple meat, teasingly salty but with buttery overtones and without any smokiness to compromise the flavor.”
Which prosciutto to select? In Mimi Sheraton’s excellent book 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, she raves about Prosciutto of San Daniele noting,
“this ham’s center bone is removed after 13 months of curing and pressed into a fairly event, flat shape. It is aged for about a year, resulting in a richer, parchment like patina and a more even and intense flavor”.
So it’s the ideal choice to serve for Valentine’s Day…perhaps with a sparkling glass of Italy’s renowned Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg of the Veneto or lovely pink-toned sparkling Rose of the Marche region.
Prosciutto is classically served as a salty counterpoint to sweet fruits like figs, melons and even pears. As Valentine’s Day is in February, a month that is not the best for fresh fruit, try pairing it with dried fruit instead! For a simple, but elegant nibble for Valentine’s Day wrap a thin slice around a whole dried apricot and secure with a decorative toothpick. It’s simple and no-fuss. The recipe below, from The Philosopher’s Kitchen (Random House) is inspired by the food of ancient Rome and features dried figs.

Assorted Fig Appetizers
Serves 6

Simmering dried figs in white wine makes them plump and flavorful. They are absolutely perfect filled with San Daniele Prosciutto.
18 dried figs
1 cup white wine
2 ounces thinly sliced San Daniele prosciutto, cut into twelve 1/2-inch wide strips
Mascarpone cheese & lemon zest
Finely chopped pistachio nuts & honey

-1- In a small saucepan, bring the figs and wine to a simmer and cook until the figs are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the figs and continue cooking the wine until very thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Reserve.
-2- Cut about 1/4 inch off the tops and fill with San Daniele prosciutto. If you like fill some with mascarone cheese topped with zest or with chopped pistachios topped with honey.