If you’ve ever had a cheese and meat board, then you definitely had prosciutto. Most folks love it, but some are questioning how safe it is.
Is prosciutto raw, and is it safe to eat from this point of view ?
This article is going to answer your question and hopefully any other curiosities you might have about prosciutto.
So is prosciutto raw ?
No, prosciutto is not raw in the sense we usually mean when talking about meat. It is not moist, fresh, raw meat.
It is a form of deli, a cured meat that does start out raw indeed. Due to the curing process and food-borne illnesses are negated.
Cured meat (of any kind) is an ancient way of preserved meat, back when freezers weren’t available. This, along with frying meat and storing it in jars surrounded by lard is one of the ways our ancestors kept meat.
Prosciutto is actually dry-cured
Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured meat. It starts out fresh and raw, but the drying and curing process deals away with two important elements: moisture, and trichinae.
Moisture helps bacteria develop on the surface (and later inside) the meat. No moisture means no bacteria, or at least no viable way for bacteria to develop quick enough.
Trichinae is a parasite that is found in many carnivorous or omnivorous mammals. This includes pigs, and this is where the curing salts and seasonings come into play.
Aside from the addition of flavor these salts and seasonings remove the threat of trichinae.
The whole curing process makes prosciutto a safe meat, ready to eat straight out of the package.
Info courtesy of USFDA (site).
All that being said, if you still feel a bit uneasy about eating uncooked prosciutto, you can always fry it a little in a skillet, like you would with bacon. Just know that this is a dried meat and sliced very thinly.
This means your fried slices will be crispy and might burn very easily since there is no moisture at all, just a bit of fat.
Prosciutto cotto VS crudo
There are actually two prosciutto versions available on the market.
Prosciutto crudo is the most common version, and the one we’ve discussed so far in this article. The word ‘crudo’ means ‘raw’ in Italian, and it can be aged up to 1
The other prosciutto is made using cooked meat. The name is prosciutto cotto, with ‘cotto’ meaning ‘cooked. It’s cooked in a controlled environment, slowly and deliberately.
There are seasonings and herbs involved and it’s never aged like prosciutto crudo.
You’ll know it’s prosciutto cotto if it’s a rosy color instead of deep red, and the fat will usually have a seared appearance on the outside layer. The fat marbling will be less visible, sinec there won’t be as much of a contrast.
It’s also moist and slightly larger than the crudo version. This is because crudo is a dehydrated meat, much like beef jerky.
Prosciutto needs to be kept in the fridge
No matter what kind of prosciutto you get, you should always keep it in the fridge if you’re not going to eat it all in one sitting. I’m mostly talking about sliced, pre-packaged prosciutto here.
Keep it wrapped in plastic wrap, and maybe in an airtight container as well as it can smell very strongly and this will contaminate other foods in the fridge.
If you’re going to buy the whole leg – prosciutto crudo often comes in the form of an entire leg of pork – then you can keep it in a cool pantry, lightly wrapped in butcher’s paper.
The leg is fairly large and it will feed you for weeks or months, depending on how much you carve from it daily. Keep in mind that this meat is a very strong tasting one, and you’ll tire of it easily if you overdo it.
Only buy a whole leg if you know you’re having a really big event where you can serve most of it.
Prosciutto is one of those wonderful treats that goes well with pretty much everything – sweet, spicy, cheese, by itself !
Personally we like it with a couple of rose grapes and a simple cheese, as more of a snack between meals. Another idea could be to wrap asparagus spears with some prosciutto (cotto would be best since it has more moisture) and grill them for a few minutes.
Hopefully you got the answers you were looking for and are alright with eating this wonderful Italian cured ham, whether you get the ‘raw’ dry-aged and cured version or the cooked version.
If you’ve got any food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.