Italy - Prosciutto di San Daniele
Made according to a time-honoured tradition in the Fruili region
A completely natural product tracing its heritage back to Celtic days

How many food products can trace their heritage back to Celtic days? Not many, but Prosciutto di San Daniele is one that can.

In the pre-Roman era, San Daniele del Friuli was an important Celtic settlement, thanks to its special position en route to Northeast Europe. The Celts, a relatively non-migratory people who were devoted to agriculture, were the first to use salt to preserve pork, of which they were major consumers. It was the beginning of a long tradition of pig farming and the production of pork products that has lasted to this day.

Centuries ago the people of San Daniele discovered that the reduced humidity, good aeration and particular microclimate of the hills surrounding the town enabled the optimum preservation of meat and thus the process of maturation was invented. Since then pigs have been kept in the region and the practice of breeding developed.

Throughout the ages, hams from San Daniele have featured as currency in barter deals. Many leases or deeds of sale have specified payment in hams, in around 1490 hams were used to pay the lawyers defending a dispute regarding fishing on the River Corno and the Municipality of San Daniele once sent hams in abundance to the Doge of Venice in exchange for arms and labour during the incursions by the Turks.

More recently San Daniele has become well-known as a typical product of the region, with Protected Denomination of Origin, PDO, status. In the 20th Century, development and industrialisation of the production activity resulted in San Daniele production companies making a significant contribution to the formation of the national and international market for prosciutto crudo.

Production of Prosciutto di San Daniele is located in central Friuli, a region that covers an area of 34 km2, situated along the course of the River Tagliamento. The morainic origins of the region have helped create a soil with a strong hygroscopic capacity that continually drains moisture from the atmosphere and interacts with the breezes, which rise warm from the Adriatic Sea just 35km away and gradually cool before meeting the colder breezes descending from the Alps. The overall result is a constant microclimate that is unique to this region and essential for the production of prosciutto.

Prosciutto di San Daniele is the result of maturing fresh pig thighs, including the trotter, in a traditional process that has been maintained and handed down by ham-makers from generation to generation. It involves the addition of sea salt and a gradual process, as a result of the microclimate, to produce a prosciutto that is perfectly conserved without the use of additives or preservatives. The pigs themselves come from farms situated in ten regions of central Northern Italy - Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo and Lazio.

Only the rear limbs of the pig are used, which, due to their physical structure, are particularly suitable for the long maturation process. The minimum maturation period is 13 months. A prosciutto that has been matured for longer will not automatically be better but will be different – longer maturation produces a more intense flavour and the meat is a little drier. Which is better is a matter of personal preference.

Prosciutto di San Daniele is a completely natural food and an excellent source of complete proteins, vitamins and minerals, particularly phosphorus, zinc and potassium. Due to its high nutritional value and easy digestibility, it is suitable for any diet and ideal for athletes, infants and the elderly.

All photos (c) Consorzio del Prosciutto di San Daniele