Category Archives: Parma ham

I like pig thighs and I cannot lie

By Zara McDowell


Ham curing at La Perla Salumficio in Parma, Italy. Photo by Zara McDowell

PARMA, Italy- The sound of loud air conditioning units and smell of raw meat fills the air of the Parma ham factory, La Perla Salumficio, owned by brothers, Carlo and Fabrizio Lanfranchi.

Prosciutto di Parma can only be produced in the Parma region of Italy using pigs born and bred in central-northern Italy, by law. After 2,000 years of this style of production, 160 families now carry on the tradition. Each year, ten million pieces are produced in Parma and the Lanranchi’s create 50,000 of them.

Visitors this day are greeted by Carlo, sharply dressed in a purple button down that pokes out of his white lab coat; he is sporting a warm smile as he rolls out a cart full of hairnets and white robes to cover our clothes.

Next, he opens a heavy industrial door to reveal many pink and red pig thighs hanging from a rope on long silver poles. Carlo proudly explains the following steps of the Parma ham curing process.

  1. First, during a 20-day period, sea salt is added to the thighs, the only additive that is allowed. The thighs are massaged to spread the salt evenly.
  2. Second, the meat dries an additional 90 days. We see this stage as Carlo leads the group around a corner, and a new aroma somewhat like Thanksgiving greets us.
  3. The thighs are then washed in hot water (40 C, 104 F).
  4. Around the next corner, hundreds of rows of hanging meat cures for a minimum of one year of aging.
  5. Then, the exposed end of the hams are covered with a layer of lard and sea salt in order to prevent the external layers from excessive drying.
  6. In the final stage, Carlo sticks a hollow probe made from horse tibia bone into five spots on the lard-covered end of the ham. He smells the results with his 1-million-euro-insured nose to determine if his masterpiece is complete. His nose expertise developed over 30 years of working with Parma hams.

Another bonus to visiting here (with a reservation) is that Carlo and his crew welcome you to their upstairs dining area with a three-course meal after the tour. A fresh plate of prosciutto, melon, bottles of water and wine, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar are on the table as bottles are popping and forks are clinking on the white square plates. Everyone, in awe of the spectacular flavor of the prosciutto, sits a little straighter as a plate of spinach and ricotta-filed ravioli, accompanied by grated Parmesan, comes out of the kitchen. Dessert includes a plate of chocolate squares, lemon and fruit bars.


The tasting tables are neatly set at La Perla Salumficio in Parma with prosciutto, melon, bread, wine and water. Photo by Zara McDowell

In the dining area, Carlo points out a picture displayed proudly on a table. Carlo and brother Fabrizio smile in the frame next to fellow American, Guy Fieri.

Carlo makes sure to eat at least one piece of his Prosciutto di Parma each day, unless he brings it home to eat, then he will have it twice, “I can never say no to a good piece,” Carlo exclaims.

And, it turns out, neither can I. The fresh prosciutto placed on a slice of bread with a sprinkle of Parmesan is irresistible.

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Filed under MU Journalism Abroad, Parma ham, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Uncategorized

Plated–the making of proscuitto

By: Faith Vickery

PARMA, Italy— Driving through the rolling Tuscan hills, our bus stopped at a wonderful family run meat company, Salumificio La Perla, run by Carlo Lafnranchi and his brother Fabrizio. If you’re ever looking for a meal that comes with an experience, this is the place.

First, lunch: thin slices of prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and, shockingly, cantaloupe. The sweet cantaloupe cut the salty ham in the best way, and the balsamic on the Parmigiano was an impressive pairing. After our delicious meal we went below the restaurant to learn about the production of the prosciutto we’d just eaten.

On the production floor we inhaled the obvious scent of meat, yet there was none in sight. We found that the prosciutto, a cured ham made from the hind leg of a pig, was in the surrounding freezers. When La Perla receives the legs, they are stored at approximately 32°F for five days. Then the legs are massaged and moved to another freezer two degrees cooler. Here, due to the cooling, the visible meat becomes darker in color. After fifteen days the ham is massaged again and moved to the drying room.

The meat takes two years to cure and is checked by an inspector to ensure that the ham meets the Italian DOP (protected designation of origin) regulation. The inspector takes a long hollow horse bone and sticks it in five different points around the center bone of the leg to extract the interior of the ham. As if it wasn’t weird enough to use a horse bone to stick in a pig leg, after each poke the inspector as well as the owner actually smells the bone to determine the quality of the meat. Upon passing this peculiar inspection the ham receives an oval crown with the word PARMA stamped on it. This marking is a guarantee that the ham is from the region of Parma and nowhere else.

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Filed under heritage meats, MU Journalism Abroad, Parma ham, Science ad Agricultual Journalism

The heart of Italy: family business

Carlo Lanfranchi stands beside hams after the first stage of the prosciutto process. There are many steps in producing prosciutto including freezing, seasoning and drying out.

Carlo Lanfranchi stands with the first stage of the prosciutto process. There are many steps in producing prosciutto including freezing, seasoning and drying out.

Rachel Trujillo

PARMA, Italy—The Italian countryside sends shades of green to meet the bright blue skies. Passing through, perfectly symmetrical lines of crops fill the farms that serve as resident’s backyards. Italy is known for fresh ingredients that grace local markets and each dish. Parma Ham, one product grown in these rolling hills is produced by 156 firms in the region. Salumificio La Perla is one of these few businesses.

Brothers Carlo and Fabrizio Lanfranchi took over La Perla from their father 25 years ago and have been dedicated to the production of the “prosciutto di Parma” ever since. Their family owned business consists of the factory and a kitchen and dining space for guests. After a tour, guests are invited to sit and enjoy a meal consisting of prosciutto and a pasta dish. A bond and a sense of passion fills the building as members of the family scurry around. While one employee speaks of their product, they may stop to introduce you to their father, mother or distant relative as they pass by.

Considered the backbone of Italy, family owned businesses have persevered. More than 70% of Italian employees work for private companies with less than 100 employees, over 50% with fewer than 20, according to the Bank of Italy Statistics. Some of the better-known family companies are FIAT, owned by the Agnellis, Pirelli, an auto parts store, and De Benedetti, Italian industrialists, engineers and publishers. The size of these companies compliments the Italian stereotype that family is everything. When times get tough, most Italians look towards their family to aid them in their financial struggles. Family members are willing to do what ever it takes to ensure their family member can stay on his or her feet. Lately with the advancements of Internet, businesses find it hard to afford setting up websites and keeping up with the digital world, according to The Economist website. Many families are looking towards outside parties to invest in them and, unfortunately, losing part of their ownership. This is causing a slow shift away from what were traditionally all-family operations.

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Filed under family business, Parma ham, regional food