Culatello di Zibello is a one of the most prized cured-meats made near the town of Parma. It can be purchased whole, sliced or portioned. When purchased whole, tied up in its casing, you should cut off the twine, remove the casing and rinse and brush it under running water. Dry the meat well using a kitchen towel. If the culatello has been aged for more than 18 months, you should wrap it in a cloth dampened with dry white wine or water for 2 or 3 days in a refrigerator at 40° F (4° C) in order to soften the meat. After 3 days, remove the cloth and scrape the culatello with a knife, removing the impurities and parts of yellow fat. Culatello should be sliced very thinly. In fact, each slice should weight less than ¼ oz. Culatello should be served and consumed immediately after slicing to avoid oxidation of the meat.
How to serve it: Culatello should be eaten alone or served with white bread and a couple curls of butter. Due to its sweetness, it is best served at the beginning of a meal when your palate is fresh and clean of other flavors and aromas. Visually, the slice should be uniformly pink or red with white veins of fat, known as marbling. If the center part is lighter in color and soft, while the outer perimeter of the meat is dark and dry, it means that the culatello was not aged well and that the taste and consistency will not be perfect. When you put a slice of culatello in your mouth, it should melt in your mouth, creating a balance of sweet and slightly savory flavors.
Wine pairing: Culatello pairs well with dry, sparkling white and red wines that are not too aromatic, like Prosecco, Malvasia di Parma, Lambrusco and Fortana.
How to store it: Once you have begun to slice a culatello, it should be consumed within a reasonable amount of time and stored in the refrigerator, possibly wrapped in its casing with a slice of butter or protected by a piece of waxed paper. Otherwise, it can be vacuumed packed and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of months.