The Massive Amount Of Time It Takes To Make Prosciutto

Italian cured meats are legendary for their beautifully vibrant coloration, tightly honed flavors, and, of course, how fun their names are to say (looking at you gabagool). None are so delicately wonderful, however, as the thinly sliced meltingly-salted prosciutto

The dry-cured uncooked cut of light pink meat that you're thinking of is technically called prosciutto crudo in Italian, while the baked version of the pig leg is called prosciutto cotto, per The Spruce Eats. What you see at the store or in your local butcher shop is just the slicing and the packaging of the prosciutto — seems easy enough — but according to Serious Eats, the most meticulous of meat artists take somewhere between 18 and 24 months (sometimes even longer) to fully prepare prosciutto. It's actually a very simple process on paper, just the hind leg of a pig salt-cured and then air-dried for a very, very long time, Bon Appétit reports. But perhaps the wait makes it taste even better.

The prosciutto process

According to Parma Crown, the meat curing process in Italy goes back thousands of years, and, for the most dedicated of producers, these ancient practices remain to this day. Once the leg of pork is chosen it immediately undergoes a salting process that involves being coated in sea salt and kept in a refrigerator for several weeks. When the leg is adequately salted, the meat must be allowed to sit and absorb as much of the salt as possible, so the legs are hung in humidity and temperature controlled refrigerators for several months. 

When this process is complete the hams are then washed and cleaned of all their salt and other impurities and then hung to dry-cure for another several months (via Parma Crown). After this, the legs are inspected, and any exposed parts will be covered in a mixture of salt, spices, and lard to prevent it from hardening too much. After this, finally, the ham will be hung for several more months until it's ready to eat. The process is incredibly long, but good, buttery, delicious cuts of meat come to those who wait.