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Made in Italy: how do prosciutto San Daniele Dop

by Ada Parisi
5 min read

The prosciutto di San Daniele Dop, one of the 10 DOP prosciutto and Italian PGI, It is one of excellence of Made in Italy agri-food. A product of the charcuterie, obtained from pig meat all Italian, It consumed all over the country and very famous abroad. Merits of a chain that combines pig farmers, slaughterers, ham (craft and industrial) laboratories and slicing. Prosciutto San Daniele PDO comes from a working process coded, regulated by a rigid discipline, that allows consumers to purchase a high quality product, unique flavor, nutritious and versatile in the kitchen.

Prosciutto San Daniele Dop, cutting

Its shape guitar, the gambuccio and a sweet taste, slightly tangy, toasted and aromatic are the distinctive characteristics of this ham. To know and be able to tell the story of this food and how to make prosciutto San Daniele Dop, we chose to visit one of the 31 members of the ham Consortium operating in this country, the province of Udine. We visited the Prosciuttificio Prolongo, historical land mark, a small family business that combines great tradition with modernity. One of the few ham producers that still uses the natural method for curing.

The aging of prosciutto San Daniele Dop


Dried and dry are the two terms that give rise to the word “Ham”. The art of pork butchery and processing of dried pig meat has ancient origins and develops predominantly in the Middle Ages, around the eleventh century. Even in San Daniele del Friuli, the pig become an important element of the eating habits of the local residents. And meat processing becomes one of the most used activities among families.

For over seven centuries, the town of San Daniele was a fief of the Patriarch of Aquileia: In 1063, He obtained the privilege of becoming a free-market, and soon he was able to market their meat with Venice and with the same Aquileia. Mentioned in the documents of the Council of Trent, the San Daniele products became very famous, until you cross the world wars, coming up to the present day. Today, This town has an output of 2,6 million hams a year and about 17 million packs of sliced ​​San Daniele in tub.


The pig farms authorized in Ham chain of San Daniele are 3,927 and are located in ten regions of central and northern Italy in the product specification: Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Brands, Umbria. The slaughterhouses are 116 members in the supply chain, all the territory of the ten regions of central and northern Italy. A whole chain Italian. The feeding of pigs intended for production of PDO San Daniele ham is equally important to obtain high quality meat.

The pigs feed on corn, mash of grain, oats, wheat, sorghum, soy flour, Sesame, bran, dehydrated potato, manioc. In addition to these foods, also feed byproducts of cheesemaking, as the whey (from the processing of curds) and buttermilk (deviation of the separation of the butter from the cream). The structures and farming equipment have to ensure animals welfare conditions, with well ventilated rooms, insulated, to maintain a proper temperature and an optimal air exchange. The races are admitted Large white, Landrace e Duroc italiano. The final weight of the Prosciutto di San Daniele entire ranges between eight and ten kilograms and can never be less than 7,5 kilograms.

Prosciutto San Daniele Dop, salting


The territory of the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli has an ideal climate for curing ham. The fresh wind coming from the mountains mixes with the wet from the sea, creating perfect and controllable conditions. The ham Prolongo produces over 6 thousand hams a year, using Italian pig thighs, between the ages of 9 and 12 months. The spinneret is controlled to 100%, with greater attention to animal welfare in the stages of farming. After slaughter, the hams are selected and arrive in San Daniele del Friuli within 48 hours of slaughter. Here, the thighs are subjected to a preliminary check of compliance and when they arrive in prosciuttificio an average weight of 16 pounds (from 12,4 e 18 chili).

The rind and excess fat are processed with a knife to remove the excess parts (phase trimming). This operation promotes the absorption of salt. The paw is not removed, because the moisture drainage and ease, then, It promotes optimal seasoning. The thighs pass to a phase of massage with salt and water and then are coated with a mixture of sea salt (fine grained and coarse-grained). The sea salt is concentrated mainly on the raw flesh, the point where rind was cut.

Photo credit – ham Prolongo

The leg remains in salt for about two weeks (to a temperature of 2 degrees with 80% humidity), according to a very precise rule: a day in salt for each pound of weight. Finished this period, the salt is removed with a brush and the thigh exposed to temperatures higher gradually, with a lower moisture. The thighs are superimposed so that the weight of each piece crush the other. Like this, you get the typical shape of the guitar prosciutto San Daniele Dop. The meat is compact, the salt begins to penetrate.

After two months, the thighs are cleaned by the emerging part of the hip and the part that surrounds the so-called “Walnut”. After another 60 days, It is passed to a washing in warm water to remove encrustations. Within four months, the thigh is considered fresh meat.


After four months, begins the phase of maturation, which can last up to 17 months. The thighs are transferred in the seasoning, hung vertically in wooden shelves and exposed to air naturally in the seasons room. We try to respect at the most the traditional method. In ham with industrial method using temperature-controlled rooms. In the traditional method, instead, there is no use of air conditioning, but it is the climate that guide the ripening technique. They open or close the windows depending on the temperature and humidity that you want to achieve.

That part of the meat exposed to air, without rind, It is coated and covered with a mixture of lard (pure pork fat), rice flour (grouting) and pepper. This operation is made by hand, to make sure that the ham breaths and transpires. Even at this stage it is possible that less than perfect thighs are discarded. Reached the tenth month of seasoning, begins the real maturation phase that will last from 7 to 8 months. The leg is re-grouted. These moments are very delicate because the craftsman has to be able to bring into balance the fat and the lean part of the meat to get a ham balanced taste. During maturation, ham loses about 30% of its weight.

The welding with ham horse bone San Daniele DOP


Around the thirteenth month, It takes the most important quality control: the beating and spot welding. In beating, the craftsman affects the ham in precise points. If the sound is full and compact, maturation is well under way. In the phase of welding, slips a bone, sharpened horse (porous and capable of retaining the aromas) at precise locations of the thigh to feel the aromas and assess the degree of maturation.

Once this phase, the ham is subjected to quality controls by an independent certification body (authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture – Mipaaf), that evaluates and authorizing the marking of hams if they comply with the characteristics contained in the product specification. The stamp in focus with the symbol of the consortium is affixed on each thigh that has a minimum of 13 months of seasoning.

In the case of San Daniele prosciutto Dop, the mark is constituted by a shape of ham, with two letters “S” and “D”, and a two-digit number that represents the manufacturer ID code. Other marks indicate the breeding and province of origin, the month of birth of the pig, the identification code of the slaughterhouse, the date of commencement of processing. To guarantee to consumers the traceability and food safety.


The San Daniele ham is a product with Protected Designation of Origin since 1996. It is characterized by a red and pink in the lean part and white in the fat part. The prevailing aromas are nuts, malt barley and bread crust. The flavor is delicate, slightly fruity with aromas seasoned meat.

Is’ a food rich in proteins, vitamins (come B1, B2 e B6) and minerals (such as phosphorus, zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium). The fat composition has a predominance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A portion of 50 grams of ham contains 136 calories and contains 12,9 grams of protein, 9,3 grams of fat (of which 4,3 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1,4 grams of polyunsaturated fat), 0, 89 grams of sodium and 0,1 gram of carbohydrates.

Remember that San Daniele ham DOP is easily recognizable because it keeps a hand, both for the brand to focus Dop. The Consortium recommends eating ham instead just cut, or within two hours from the moment of cutting. And in any case, it should consume the prosciutto San Daniele Dop within 12 hours from the cut, taking care to keep it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 4 degrees.

When choosing a prosciutto di San Daniele Dop, Be careful: the slice must appear uniformly rosea, with white grease. Is’ important to know that the white crystals that sometimes found on slices of prosciutto San Daniele Dop, but are not salt crystals tyrosine crystals: these are the proteins that crystallize, with the passage of time, sign of a long maturation and a good aging.

A slice of prosciutto San Daniele Dop


gambuccio (Shin), bow and tip are the main parts of the ham. The gambuccio has a tendency less savory, the tip is more tasty and is the part opposite with respect to the zampino, the bow (which contains a greater lean mass) is a part very flavorful and compact, from which it is possible to obtain very thin slices. The pre-sliced ​​ham is one of the sectors most in the growth of Italian cured meats in general and in the chain of the San Daniele Dop.

The cutting of the ham is an art and one of the most important steps that allow you to enjoy the best of this salami. The company Prolongo, on an idea by Giovanni Prolongo, still it produces the tin emigrant, a metal package, sealed, containing prosciutto di San Daniele Dop vacuum. One way to allow even those who live far, far from Friuli to taste this specialty.


The Prolongo name is linked to one of the historical companies in the supply chain prosciutto di San Daniele Dop. Born in 1957, at the initiative of founder John Prolongo, today after Lucio dad this company is the third generation, thanks to the work of Alessio and Arianna grandchildren, working side by side with her father Lucio. The ham is the Prolongo ultio remained in San Daniele del Friuli to have the curing rooms and the aging cellar completely “au natural”, that is, without the use of air conditioning and air conditioning systems.

The visit of the laboratories is a powerful immersion into the reality of this territory. Accompanied by Arianna, we found that high-quality ham depends on three factors: the best raw materials, sea ​​salt, the balance between wind and natural moisture. Three elements that Prolongo family wants to preserve and pass, to achieve large hams, possibly following the natural rhythms. Those that, For example,, impose to work the thighs of pigs in the winter to take advantage of the climatic conditions of this area of ​​Friuli, which it is located halfway between the sea and high mountains.

Ham, then, matures air and cold rooms are used only for the first six months of maturation, When the ham thighs are still fresh. Each year, the family produces Prolongo 6-7mila ham with natural curing method. Now Arianna and her brother Alessio are also planning to re-introduce to the market a very expensive product to grandfather: smoked ham.

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Spike 13 January 2020 - 11:41

I visited Palermo but it was a while ago, before the euro. I was in anchovy heaven and the wild strawberries were wonderful. I wish I had been able to find spaghetti with sea urchin, I only saw vendors on the street. Maybe peeople make it at home. Besides food, I thought the catacombs and the art were wonderful.

Ada Parisi 14 January 2020 - 10:45

Ok, Palermo in these years is changed, maybe you will find it more beautiful and attractive…

Spike 13 January 2020 - 09:09

Thank you for this, it’s fascinating. I was in Puglia, Napoli, and Sardinia last October and loved the cured meat. Great to read about how it is made.

Ada Parisi 13 January 2020 - 10:56

Thank you so much. It’s a big pleasure to explain the best products of made in Italy. So now you must visit Sicily! Have a nice day, ADA


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