Curing meat is one of the oldest forms of food preservation in history. Prosciutto is an Italian style of dried, cured ham that is a delectable treat to be savored and enjoyed.
Prosciutto starts out as a pork leg. Most grocery stores have them on sale once a year in the wintertime.
Have a really clean work surface to begin with. I use a large sterilized cutting board and I also prefer to use latex gloves when I’m doing this. Rinse off the pork leg in the sink and pat it dry with paper towels. When you get the pork leg from the butcher or grocery store, they will often still have a bone in the meat which needs to be removed. If you do not get the butcher to remove it, here is a way that you can do it yourself. I take a sharp knife (I use a surgical style knife) and start to slice along the meat to expose the bone. The secret is to use small cuts as you go along to remove the meat from the bone. As you expose more of the bone, which is the pelvic bone, you start to see more of the ball socket. Continue to cut the ligaments from the bone and meat until you can take out the pelvic bone. What is left is the ball joint and the rest of the leg bone which runs through the meat to the hock which is the narrowest part of the pork leg. Now you want to trim off any loose meat.
To make the curing process go more easily, I like to remove some of the skin from the inside of the pork leg. One side will have a full covering of skin on it, but not the other. This helps the drying process go smoothly by allowing for the absorption of the salt to cure the meat. I start by making a circular cut in the skin and pull the skin back. With the knife I separate the fat and skin a bit at a time for a clean removal. This is also a step that you could request a butcher to do if you feel uncertain about doing it yourself.
Salt will take care of the curing as that is what inhibits bacterial growth. I prefer to transfer my pork leg to a tub skin side down to do the salting. I use a 50-50 mix of coarse salt, also known as pickling salt, and regular table salt. I mix them together in a bowl and sprinkle a good amount on the pork leg in the tub and then work it into the meat. This is where I really appreciated wearing the latex gloves. Make sure you get a good amount into the cavity where you have cut the meat. As well, be just as particular about adding and rubbing in salt to the hock area to get in deeply to the meat. What happens in the process is that the salt draws moisture out of the meat and pulls itself into the meat which causes the curing. This step takes place over the course of 14 days.
I put a lot of salt on, but the meat will only take as much as it needs. However, you want to take your time to ensure that the pork let has a good, thorough salt rub. The moisture that is pulled out of the meat just ends up in the tub. The salt will not stick to the skin. Once you are done salting the pork leg, you’ll want to keep it in a cool area, somewhere between 2-4 degrees Celsius. Places that could work are an unheated closed garage, a shed or a spare fridge for 14 days. Slide the pork leg inside a plastic bag (a white, kitchen-sized garbage bag is a good size for this), place it back in the tub with the exposed side facing up and skin side down. Put a weight on top of the meat – something like a patio stone or a cinder block. Put this in a plastic bag as well for cleanliness and place it on top of the pork leg in the tub. This helps to extract the moisture by keeping pressure on the meat. Every second day I remove the brick, take the prosciutto out of its bag, add in more salt and rub it around the entire leg. Then I put it back in the bag, replace the weight on top and return it to its’ refrigerated area.
Not a fast recipe, but worth the effort. The first two weeks are time-intensive, but the next 50 weeks are less so! The next video will follow in a couple of weeks.
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