Making prosciutto, or another air-dried ham, is as much magic as art. Even the masters, the Spanish jamón makers, lose about 5% of their hams to the fickleness of the process, the innards becoming feral smelling rather than sweet. All it really is, is meat that’s salted and dried. The longer the drying, the better. That said, some things will help with your success.
- 7 kg leg fresh pork
- 2–3 kg salt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Curing time 2 weeks
Hanging time 5 months
You will need to begin this recipe up to 6 months ahead.
Makes 1 leg
Get your butcher to trim the leg around the hipbone so all you can see is the ball joint. When you get it home, neaten any edges up and cut the leg into the classic rounded shape you’d expect of prosciutto.
The next bit is great for tenderising the leg. Lay it on a firm surface and give it a few good blows with a solid object, like a rolling pin. I think 50 firm blows, to various parts, is probably enough. Take out the week’s stresses on it. Once this is done, press the blood out of the femoral artery, the blood vessel that runs from the trotter near the bone to the cut surface of the leg. Use paper towel to soak up the blood as it comes out.
Next, salt the leg. Do this in the container you’ll mature the leg in so any salt falling off will still be used to cure the meat. Rub salt well around the cut parts, especially around the bone. Then lay the meat in a good layer of salt below, and sprinkle with salt from above. Place a heavy weight on the leg to flatten it as it cures. Put into a cool place (a coolroom is fine) for 2 days per kilogram of meat, so a fortnight for a 7 kg leg, turning over after a week.
After the two weeks, rinse the salt off and pat dry. Rub the cut side with some lard, and sprinkle with pepper if desired. Hang the ham in a cool, preferably damp environment for a month to try to breed up some mould. Some people like to dry the outside (hanging in a coolroom, or a breeze is good) for a few days prior to this. In Tasmania, people are known to hang it under their eaves in the cooler months, on the south side of the house.
White and blue moulds, of a kind you may get on cheese, are fine on the outside, but you don’t want them eating their way into the meat. This mould will get less, generally, as it ages.
Leave the prosciutto hanging as long as you can. It is best to keep it away from bugs (wasps and flies are the worst), wandering dogs, quolls (a type of native cat) and rodents. A year would be a good length of time to hang it. At least 5 months should give it some character.
Let smell be your guide. The ham should be fragrant, not funky. Sweet, not putrid. Slice it very thinly and eat small amounts (including the all important fat) with a glass of Tassie pinot and the occasional piece of bread.