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Dry Cured (uncooked) Meats

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I've recently been reading (well, skipping around) my copy of Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie.  My interest is primarily in dry cured products like prosciutto or bresaola.  So I'd like to start a thread specifically about these variants.


As my plans for building a curing chamber (and a proper place for it) take a back seat to other pressing home renovations, I'm in a kind of limbo between consumer and producer/both.  But my imagination goes on and I keep finding new questions - among these are:


1) Commercial prosciutto: I've been doing taste tests with various super/specialty market prosciuttos and have found less differentiation than I would've expected.  Even between a Walmart Del Duca and a Boar's Head imported Prosciutto di Parma,  The Parma did take the edge in the judging, but not but not at a premium of $10/pound.  Is actual prosciutto bought in Itally better?


2) The book Charcuterie seems to stop at describing the procedure for specfic things,  That's fine, but what if I want to do something different (e,g, treat a pork loin as a breasaola)?  Could science create a prosciutto in a shorter time by cutting it down into smaller pieces?

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The amount of time spent drying has a direct effect on the flavor: we typically aren't interested in doing it faster, but slower. There's very little difference between the methods for prosciutto and any other dry-cured product. What makes it taste like prosciutto is that it's a big muscle so takes a long time to dry.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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Yes actual prosciutto from Italy is better than boars head. There are some great non Italian producers too, if you can find Iowan la Quercia for example. The fundamental process is the same for all cuts of meat, so you can treat your pork loin as a bresaola but that is called lonza or lonzino. It won't be like prosciutto or bresaola but assuredly delicious.

Before you make any designs on home drying a prosciutto is recommend starting smaller as a ham is a lot of meat to throw away if you foul it up.

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Yes actual prosciutto from Italy is better than boars head.


Actually the Boar's Head was from Italy.  Interestingly, the market where I found it had two Boar's Head prosciuttos side-by-side.  One was Prosciutto di Parma and the other was just Boar's Head Prosciutto.  They were priced the same - which I thought might be a pretty bold statement by Boar's Head.  I haven't tasted theirs though.

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Well yeah it can't be di Parma if it's not from Italy. But there's different grades of ham just like most other products.

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A long while ago, I turned 4kg of prime beef into a rather phenomenal bresaola (that compared with any I've tried) using Franco Taruschio's recipe from his legendary Leaves from the Walnut Tree book (now, sadly, out of print - but search it down, its pretty much his restaurant cooking notes, from a man who at the top of his game was a world class chef and culinary researcher drawing on a lifetime cooking the food of the Italian Marche deep in rural Wales).  


Ended up drying it in an upstairs bedroom with the window open and a fan occasionally on it, suspended in a net from the bottom of a step ladder.  A bit of an adventure, and the rest of the house was freezing cold for the duration, but worth it for the product at the end which wasn't a million miles from what I tasted at his restaurant back in the early 90s.


In the book Taruschio sources his recipe to a restaurant called Piperno in Rome.  There seems to be a "slightly amended" version of his recipe widespread online originating from Yahoo answers https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061109205358AAlOBxgbut its not quite the original (adding onion and more herbs to what is a pretty austere marinade in Taruschio's version).  


This is (roughly) the original:


4kg/9lb Topside beef (trimmed) (smaller cuts of meat do not work - the recipe doesnt scale)

Extra Virgin olive oil

fresh ground black pepper

chopped chives



Enough red/white wine to cover the joint in curing bucket (iirc I used iirc a 2.5 of bottles of each)

750g / 1 3/4lb coarse sea salt

large bunch rosemary

12 bay leaves

24 cloves

3 cloves garlic

40 black peppercorn

12 dried chillies

4 strips orange peel


Put marinade ingredients in large bowl, mix, add meat, cover and leave for 1 week or until meat feels firm.


Hang meat in dry fairly place for another week until it feels firm enough to slice thinly. It will feel solid with no give as you press with your fingers.


Rub the joint with olive oil, wrap in greaseproof paper and keep in the fridge until needed (it keeps for 3 months).

Serve thin sliced, garnished with wedges of lemons, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with chives and pepper.

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Do you mean like this?  IMG_5996.jpg ....or like this...   IMG_6162.jpg

Awe shucks,  I'm just showing off.


As far as the flavor goes, the most important thing is starting with exceptional product. a great pig or beef.

I understand that American pigs are shipped to Parma then returned because of the difference in raising/tending practices. I don't have the proof at hand but I'm sure I can produce it. They taste different.

The other thing is the feed, very important.

So that should around about answer #1

#2) As for treating a pork loin as a bresaola,,,, yes, this can be done but maybe not as you think.

Ok think of it like this.  What happens to wine in and uncorked bottle? Now what happens to wine in a corked half drunk bottle? Yes, good answer, the flavor goes away. So to do small pieces of ham you have to wrap it in something that breaths really slowly, like a beef bung!  or cake on pepper and spices to make a crust.

​Time that is what this product is about. Smaller pieces will cure faster and especially meat with little fat cures fastest yet the squeeze test and cutting it right down the middle is the best test. a normal loin takes around 3 to 4 months. I have not used a container just my sunroom and living room. it make the place smell like bacon. now what could be better than that lol.


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You may not understand what he is saying but watch and pick up some tip for your proscuitto production.



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