The new entry among the rich family of PDO dry cured hams comes from Corsica: the application for Corsican cured ham, Jambon sec de Corse-prisuttu, to receive Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) quality status was announced in the Official Journal of the European Union (No. C80) on 19March 2013. The only PDO application for Nustrale pork products that now remains to be published is that of lonzu pork loin.
Corsica’s soil and climate provide a very favourable environment for forests, which form an important part of the country’s landscape. Chestnut and oak trees in particular are abundant all over the island.
Corsican charcuterie products have a long history and, together with dairy products, form one of the main sources of animal protein in the traditional island diet.
Current livestock farming methods have been handed down from an ancient pastoral tradition, which involved moving herds of pigs around in the forested pastoral lands in the mountains or in summer pastures (rangelands), depending on the forage resources in the area.
The Nustrale pig is an Iberian breed which is local to the region. It is a hardy animal, particularly suited to this type of farming and adept at using the natural resources that it can find. The sows lead the herds around the various types of rangelands, such as wooded areas and mountain pastures, adapting their routes to the changing seasons and the available forage resources in the area.
Corsican cured ham, Jambon sec de Corse-Prisuttu, has the following specific characteristics:
— A specific elongated and flattened form. The hock is thin and elongated.
— The sliced surface shows a lean part which ranges in colour from red to deep red, depending on pigment levels in the muscles.
— The lean part is marbled because of its 6% minimum proportion of intramuscular fat.
— A high level of oleic acid gives the sliced surface an oily look.
— The sliced surface is soft and may even be very greasy, as a result of its high level of lipolysis.
— It has a rich, fruity aroma with a nutty or woody notes or hints of dried ham or mushroom. It tastes peppery and salty, owing to its high salt content of between 6.5 and 10%, and its high fat content gives it an almost sweet flavour.
The finishing process is carried out between October and March for a minimum of 45 days. During this period, the animals feed exclusively on acorns and chestnuts, for which they forage as they roam the finishing areas (oak and chestnut forests) for at least the first 30 days. After this point, their diet can be complemented with barley. Each pig is rationed to a maximum of 4kg per day. The daily rations of barley given by the farmer must not exceed 30% of the pig’s intake of chestnuts and/or acorns during the finishing period.
The salting, drying and maturing process lasts at least 12 months, including at least 4 months of maturing, which is the last stage of the creation of the product and is carried out exclusively in natural ambient conditions. This stage is essential, allowing the product to acquire its texture and develop its flavours.
The geographical area concerned includes certain towns in the départements (regions) of South Corsica and Upper Corsica, in addition to coastal towns.
And in his quest for perfection, Prince Charles has sent two of his rare breed pigs to Italy to be turned into some of the finest ham known to man, cured in a medieval cellar with the help of the fog from a nearby river.
Sending pork to be cured at a 14th-century Italian estate and smoked for more than two years is likely to be beyond most budgets – transport costs alone were probably around £700 – and may even be considered a little eccentric.
However, the venture certainly accords with Charles’s love of small scale and organic food production.
The Prince revealed details of his project on a visit to Borough Market on Thursday when he discovered that trader John Elliot of The Ham and Cheese Company shared the same supplier for their culatello di zibello, a type of cured ham unique to the Bassa Parmense region near Cremona. The Mail’s inquiries have revealed that around three years ago the Prince sent two rare breed pigs reared on Home Farm, his organic estate in Gloucestershire, to be turned into the delicacy. One a Tamworth and one a Large Black, they were slaughtered humanely in the UK before being dispatched to Europe.
Charles is patron of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, formed in 1973 to protect endangered livestock which were being abandoned in favour of more profitable breeds.
Tamworth, thought to be descended from wild boar, are one of the oldest breeds in the country, while the Large Black was popular in the early 1900s and is the only UK pig that’s entirely black.
The carcasses were taken to the picturesque estate of producer Massimo Spigaroli, on the banks of the River Po. He still uses a cellar built specifically for curing meats, which has just one small north-facing window to let in the river fog which prevents the meat from drying out too much.
The meat is hung to age for around 30 months. More than 1,000 different types of bacteria are encouraged to develop, helping to create a savoury and intensely aromatic flavour. Each ham sells for 300 euros – around £258 – to suppliers and retails for around £80 per lb in UK shops.
Mr Spigaroli confirmed yesterday that he had helped the Prince out by curing his pigs, using any leftovers to make salami and pancetta which he also sent back.
‘He heard about us when he was given one of our hams as a present. He was impressed so he wanted to know how it was made,’ he said.
‘He hasn’t so far been to our farm, but he invited my brother and I to his farm in Wales [another estate owned by the prince].
‘He was extremely hospitable and very curious about our methods. He sent over a pair of animals to our farm, as a test run.
‘He wrote us a letter personally to say he had eaten the hams and was very happy with them. We didn’t charge him. When you’re from a long line of peasant farmers like my brother and I, and you get asked to prepare a ham for a prince – it’s one of life’s great experiences.’
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
8 slices of Jamón de Huelva
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
5 thin slices of mozzarella
Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a pinch of salt.
Place a large non-stick pan on the heat and grease it with a knob of butter. When
it starts sizzling, add the eggs and cook the omelette without stirring it, turning
it just once. Place it on a sheet of baking paper and allow it to cool. Cover a
sufficiently large plate with some cling film and then place the omelette on top of
it. Spread two tablespoons of mayonnaise over the entire surface of the omelette,
followed by the well-drained mozzarella, the whole slices of Jamón de Huelva
and another layer of mayonnaise.
Roll up the omelette with the help of the film, then wrap it in the film, twisting the
ends like a sweet, and place it in the fridge for three hours. After three hours,
slice the roll with a sharp knife and serve.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
8 slices of Jambon de Bosses
500 g green asparagus
100 g aged Sardinian Pecorino cheese
100 g stale wholemeal bread
extra virgin olive oil
Wash the asparagus, remove the ends and peal them only if necessary. Parboil
them in salted water for 5-8 minutes, then drain them and leave them to cool
In the meantime, cut the slices of Jambon de Bosses in half. Grate the
Sardinian Pecorino and the wholemeal bread, using a grater with large
holes in both cases. Heat four tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan and brown the
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Arrange the gratin in a serving dish: grease the base
with a drizzle of oil, arrange the asparagus, the Jambon de Bosses, the Pecorino
and the breadcrumbs.
Cook for 15 minutes and serve hot.
Smoking is a chemical and physical process used in the preparation of various preserved foods, such as meat, fish, sausages and cheese. This food preservation method has been used since prehistoric times and makes it possible to preserve the treated pay for homework products because the smoke prevents microbial growth and delays fat oxidation.
The smoking process can be performed hot or cold. During cold smoking, the food is exposed to temperatures of between 20°C and 45°C. The smoke penetrates the food slowly. This technique is primarily used for fish, such as salmon, and some smoked meats (speck). During hot smoking, the temperature ranges from 50°C to 90°C. In this case the treatment period is reduced to just a few hours. It is used for some fish and salted meats. The molecules released by the combustion of plant material not only have antiseptic and antioxidant properties, but also create a specific aroma. In fact, the smoke produces aromas that also have antimicrobial properties. Furthermore, added nitrites and nitrates create an oxygen-deprived environment, encouraging the formation of HNO2 (nitrous acid), which prevents the germination of Clostridium botulinum spores. The preservative effect derives from the surface dehydration of the product and from the presence of aliphatic and aromatic (phenols) compounds, acetic and propionic acids, and formaldehyde. These compounds constitute the gaseous phase of the smoke, which also contains solid and liquid components with sizes varying between 50 and 800 microns. The unwanted substances, such as PAHs (benzopyrenes, and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which are believed to be carcinogenic, are contained in the solid phase known as particulate. Consequently, electrostatic filters which retain the particulate are used to purify the smoke of all harmful and carcinogenic components. Today, precisely in order to remove the particulate from the smoke, the pyrolysis chambers, which contain the smoke generators, must be separated from the smoking chambers. In this way, the smoke is passed through electrostatic filters or water before it reaches the smoking chamber and comes into contact with the product.
In traditional smoking, the smoke is produced by the pyrolysis of beech wood (Italian Ministerial Decree 31/03/1965) in the pyrolysis or combustion chamber, which is separated from the smoking chamber. As a result of this separation, the smoke is channelled through filters, where it is sprayed with water, which retains the solid components, thereby preventing the risk of carcinogenic molecules (PAHs) being present in the finished product. Smoked products are therefore as healthy as non-smoked products, if not better. In fact, smoked foods have a higher nutritional value than other foods, because the dehydration leads to a concentration of nutrients. Furthermore, they have more flavour and contain less salt. In fact, as a result of its antimicrobial properties, smoking means that less salt is needed to preserve the foods.
Nitrous acid: an acid that derives from the added nitrite – it acts as an oxidant in acidic environments, and as a reductant in alkaline environments.
Clostridium botulinum: spore-forming bacterium that causes severe poisoning.
Pyrolysis: combustion of wood in the absence of oxygen.
PAHs: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, e.g. benzopyrene: carcinogenic and mutagenic substances.
The quality of dry-cured ham is achieved by controlling chemical parameters, such as the salt (NaCl) concentration, humidity and the cialis super active proteolysis index. Proteolysis has an effect on the digestibility, the texture, the colour and the frequently observed white surface sheen of the dry-cured ham, as well as the precipitation of tyrosine crystals*.
In fact, it is often the case that when a well-aged, dry-cured ham is cut, whitish, chalky-looking formations can be observed, consisting of amino acids deriving from the proteolysis caused by meat proteases*. More specifically, they consist of tyrosine and, to a lesser extent, phenylalanine* and other amino acids. The origin of these formations is still controversial and various different theories are still being explored. Table 1 shows the most important and most reliable of these. Proteolysis by tissue enzymes seems to be the most reliable.
In fact, meat enzymes, also known as cathepsins, act on the denatured muscle proteins resulting in the release of peptides* and amino acids, including tyrosine and phenylalanine.
Due to the low water solubility , the pH (degree of acidity) and the aw* (water activity) of dry-cured ham, these then precipitate and crystallise to produce the well-known “tyrosine crystals”. The theory regarding the production of tyrosine due to bacterial activity (proteolysis or synthesis), despite being supported by the available evidence, is not very reliable. In fact, bacterial activity in dry-cured ham is only superficial as few bacteria are present in the muscle and their metabolism is limited by the salt. In other words, the concentration of tyrosine in the granules cannot be justified by bacterial activity alone.
Therefore, tyrosine production primarily derives from the activity of cathepsins*. From the very start of the aging process, they break down the proteins and begin by releasing peptides (chains of amino acids). Later on, the peptides are broken down into amino acids which, depending on their degree of solubility, precipitate to form granules. The same white surface sheen, which is sometimes found on the cut surface of dry-cured ham, is not formed by salt but by amino acids.
The presence of granules is often considered to be a defect. The texture of the resulting dry-cured ham is not as good as that of a dry-cured ham without the granules: it seems softer. Moreover, the quantity of free nitrogenous fragments (amino acids) may give the dry-cured ham a bitter and metallic taste, compromising its organoleptic properties. However, in my opinion, if we ignore the sensation of chewing “chalk”, the product has a high proteolysis index and is therefore more digestible, because it contains many free amino acids which are easily digested by the body.
Table 1: Theories regarding the formation of tyrosine crystals
a) proteolysis by tissue enzymes
b) proteolysis by microbial enzymes
c) microbial amino acid synthesis
aw: Water activity: free water, used by bacteria or enzymes in order to carry out their functions. The lower it is (due to added salt or molecules that bind water), the less active the enzymes and bacteria.
Proteolysis index: soluble nitrogen/total nitrogen ratio (e.g. soluble nitrogen – amino acids / total nitrogen – proteins + amino acids).
Precipitation of tyrosine crystals: tyrosine amino acid is not very soluble in water, meaning that it accumulates and forms crystals or granules. For example, if we added sand to a glass of water it would not dissolve, but instead would precipitate to the bottom, and the same thing would happen if we added tyrosine to water.
Meat proteases (cathepsins): these enzymes break down proteins (chains of amino acids) resulting in the release of individual amino acids or peptides (small chains of amino acids).
Phenylalanine: an amino acid found in proteins.
Peptides: chains of amino acids (from 2 to 12 and more amino acids).
Cathepsins: meat proteases that break down proteins and turn them into peptides and individual amino acids. They break apart proteins (chains of amino acids) resulting in the release of peptides and individual amino acids.
The sector claims that the current Spanish political situation is conflicting with the application made three years ago by the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Jamón de Huelva to change the name of prized Jamón de Huelva to Jamón de Jabugo.
Following the recent change of government, the Minister of Agriculture, Rosa Aquilar, has resigned from her post and has left the long-standing application from the Consejo Regulador unresolved.
In fact, an application was made to change the name three years ago, due to the pressing demands of the sector and as requested by the producers themselves. In the words of the head of the Consejo Regulador, José Antonio Pavón, “the sector is already facing serious problems, together with the harsh financial climate, and changing the name to Jamón de Jabugo would mean something more than just hope for the Iberian ham from the Sierra”. The Consejo Regulador believes that this application is more than justified and not just a whim, because in fact this is the name by which the everyday consumer knows this ham and what it is called all over the world.
The question is more topical than ever. The Instituto Internacional San Telmo (San Telmo International Institute) and the Consejo Regulador recently wrote a report that will be used by the most important training institutions as a case study: El jamón ibérico ¿una cuestión de marca?: DOP Jamón de Huelva o Jabugo. (Iberian ham. A question of branding?: Jamón de Huelva or Jabugo PDO.)
Here for you the first of our tasty recipes… all of them will be made with delicious ham: Puff pastry grissini with Prosciutto di Parma and poppy seeds
- 1 roll pre-prepared puff pastry
- 70 g Prosciutto di Parma
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- poppy seeds (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 180° C. Roll the puff pastry out flat onto a piece of baking paper.
With a pastry wheel cut vertical strips 2 centimetres wide. Top with strips of Prosciutto di Parma and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Roll up the puff pastry grissini into twists. Beat the egg yolk and gently brush it over the grissini. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and finish with just a little salt. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes.