This prosciutto most likely dates back the Celtic period, when hunters needed a method for meat conservation. The microclimate around San Daniele is perfect for conserving and drying meat and for transforming it into something exceptional. Over the course of the centuries, San Daniele prosciutto became increasingly popular in the Veneto marketplace and resultantly became a valuable item for barter. Recently, production has increased to meet demand because now the prosciutto can be made with other regional types of pig, in addition to the traditional Friulian red-breed.
Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP
Today, San Daniele DOP is made using the thighs of large pork varieties, like Landrace, Large White and Duroc, which are raised and slaughtered in one of the twelve regions listed in the DOP guidelines. The pigs must weigh more than 350 lbs and be older than nine months. The thighs must weigh at least 22 lbs and still have the leg attached. The thighs are selected based on weight and then the excess fat is removed and the meat is cut down to give it its nice violin-like shape. Then the meat is salted by hand with coarse salt. Next, the meat is wiped of the salt and then pressed to remove excess water, help the meat absorb the salt, unite the fat and lean parts of the meat, and give the meat its typical shape. Then the meat is left to rest for about three months, washed with water, brushed off and dries. The exposed part of the prosciutto not covered by skin is rubbed with a mixture of pork fat, flour, salt and pepper. The aging lasts about eight months in an area with good ventilation. This is when the microclimate of San Daniele comes into play. The air from the Adriatic Sea travels up along the rivers and mixes with the cold mountain air. This creates fairly dry climate with gentile winds, which is ideal for aging meat.
Prosciutto di San Daniele should be bone-in with rosy red meat that is nicely marbled with white fat. It should have a sweet and aromatic flavor and can be served with bread, mild fruit, like melon or figs, and slightly aromatic white wines. It should not be served with strong flavors like vegetables conserved in oil.