Welcome to part 3 of making prosciutto. If you remember from parts 1 and 2, we salted down our prosciutto, then we got it inside the drying chamber. This one was 20 pounds and 9 ounces when I hung it a couple of months ago. It’s now down to 16 pounds and 2 ounces so it’s lost roughly 20% of its weight which was our target and now we’re ready to do the next part of the process. We want our prosciutto to lose 35-40% of its’ original weight. If we were to just leave it in the cellar drying this way, what we’d find is the exposed meat part would dry out so much that it would almost be inedible. What we want to do is slow the drying process down and allow the prosciutto to develop complex flavors. I’ve made a little video on how to make Sugna. Sugna is a combination of rice flour and lard. It will act in the same way that the skin and the fat does, giving the prosciutto a protective layer. What will happen when we apply the Sugna is that the drier parts will reach an equilibrium, so every part of the prosciutto will come to about the same consistency of dryness and texture. The prosciutto will still continue to dry and lose weight. All we need to do is cover off the areas that have been exposed.
Looking at the prosciutto now, it’s starting to look more like the finished result of the process than it did when we were first hanging it up in the early stages. You’ll notice that it has darkened up a lot in color, shrunken in size considerably from what it was, and turning it over, you see that the skin has also taken on a darker color. We don’t have any white mold growing on this prosciutto, but it’s not uncommon to have that, depending on the conditions of where are hanging it. So, if you have a bit of the white mold on your prosciutto, before you apply the Sugna, you will want to give it a good rinse and scrub off with pure vinegar a day or two before applying the Sugna. Then make sure it dries thoroughly to get all that moisture out before you apply the Sugna.
The first thing we need for Sugna is some lard. I’m going to make it from scratch. I stopped by the butcher’s store and picked up some fresh pork fat. I’m going to cut the pork fat into thin slices. Making lard is quite simple – you need an oven, an oven-proof pot, and pork fat. Take the thin slices and put them into a heavy pot such as a Dutch oven, cast-iron pot or a Visions pot. All of these keep the heat very even. There’s a few different ways people make lard. Some say you need to have a little bit of water in the bottom of your pot. However, because we’re going to be using this lard to make the coating for our prosciutto, I want to make sure that there is no water in the lard at all as the water could allow things to turn rancid. So I’m just cooking it at a low temperature in the oven at 250F. It melts the fat and turns it into liquid, but it’s not hot enough to cause the fat to burn or brown up. This step will take time. I will check it after 3 hours, give it a turn and leave it for another hour or two until it all turns liquid. Then I’ll drain it off. It can be made up a day to a week before it’s needed. It ended up taking six hours for it to render down. I’ve taken the lid off the pot and will strain it into a bowl through a sieve that has been lined with cheesecloth. This makes sure that no solid particulates go through. Before I make the Sugna out of the lard, I will let the lard come to room temperature. It will turn white in color and get thicker in consistency but will not become rock hard like it will when I put it in the fridge. So if you are making your lard ahead of time, just make sure that you take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature so it will soften and be nice to work with.
For making the Sugna, we will mix equal weights of lard and rice flour. You can find rice flour in the ethnic sections of large supermarkets or look for it in Asian specialty food stores. We must combine equal weights, not parts, of the lard and rice flour, so it will not be by volume. You will need a scale to be accurate. I put the room temperature lard in a bowl and then add the rice flour. If you live in an area where you may have the odd fly around the drying prosciutto you can add coarsely ground black pepper to the Sugna. In order to combine the two ingredients, it’s best to knead it with washed, clean hands. Work it slowly and combine it till it’s like white peanut butter. Wash your hands to get ready for the next step. Start to apply the Sugna to the exposed meat. It’s a messy process, but necessary. Get it on all the exposed meat areas including the back of the hock. It’s kind of like playing with Silly Putty or Play-Doh but stickier. Make sure that you generously apply the sugna to all exposed meat parts including the exposed ball socket. Once I’ve got those areas all covered, I’ll need to wash my hands again.
Applying sugna is like icing a cake with your hands, but possibly stickier and with no temptation to lick your fingers. So now the prosciutto is ready to be hung back in the cellar. I’m going to continue to check the weight with a digital scale periodically. If I’m trying to get to 35-40% weight reduction from the original, I’m looking for this prosciutto to be between 12-13 pounds. Then it will be ready to be cut up, eaten and enjoyed. One really important item to note – I added roughly 800 grams of sugna to the prosciutto so that needs to be considered. I’ll convert the grams to ounces and take that into account as I am weighing the prosciutto periodically. The prosciutto lost a lot of weight in a fairly short time from the second video to the third. To move to the final stage it could take 8-12 months depending on the conditions where you hang your prosciutto. Go by weight, not by time. Make sure you have a means to accurately weigh your prosciutto. If you would like to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you will get a notification for when the fourth video comes out. That video will focus on answering what to do when it’s fully cured and ready to be eaten. If you’ve never bought a whole prosciutto and had to carve one out, I’ll go through the steps of how you carve it into sections, remove the bone, and how to slice it so you can use it on a charcuterie tray or in any recipes you have. I will also be starting to put out videos of the other cured meats I do throughout the year. Prosciutto takes the longest to make, but the other ones can be done in a much shorter period of time so you can enjoy them sooner. Have a wonderful day!
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Making Prosciutto at home with John! Part One:
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.
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