My passion for authentic Italian cuisine and the ingredients necessary to make it happen, took me to the cold meats department of a well-known chain of foreign supermarkets. In the refrigerator I saw the Spanish hams and also hams from Parma and one labelled as ‘San Daniele Parma’ ham. After my initial surprise I asked the shop assistant (who was, of course, not Italian) for more information.
He explained that San Daniele was the brand of the producer and that Parma was the type of ham. I asked to speak to the manager because I wasn’t convinced by his answer. When the manager arrived I asked him the same question and I got the same reply. I asked the manager for his country of origin. He answered: “I am from Bombay, India, sir.” I asked the manager how it would be if I labelled the lamb ‘Bombay Calcutta lamb’. “It would not be possible!” he smiled.
I explained, “Parma is a town at the foot of the Tuscan Emilia Apennines. San Daniele is a town at the foot of the Dolomites and about 350 km away.” The manager apologized for not knowing this fact. I clarified then that even if the two hams look similar, they are actually very different.
The breed of pigs used to make them is different, the food that they are fed is different, and the salting process is different. Even the air where the aging process take place is different ( the air in the Dolomites is drier then the air from the Apennines). Therefore, San Daniele ham is more aromatic, sweeter and fattier. It is also produced in smaller quantities and is more expensive than Parma ham.
It is said that the production of ham in Italy started at the end of the late Roman Empire in the area of Norcia, which is a little town in the Umbria region. In fact, the people who were in charge of preparing hams and salamis, and who are called ‘insaccatori’ in Italian (sausage-makers), were known as ‘Maestri Norcini’ even then.
Drawn from Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti Bolognaise & Caesar Salad by Maurizio Pelli.
For info: The Culinary Clinic by Maurizio Pelli.