The transformation of Parma ham is a study of how modern regulations and marketing can spoil an ancient artisanal delicacyby Alex Renton / October 20, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
Alberto Rossetti, chef of Parma’s Al Tramezzo restaurant, is a devoted fan of the ham for which his hometown is famed. Tattooed on his thigh is the ducal crown emblem branded on every leg of prosciutto crudo di Parma. In September, during Parma’s annual festival of ham, I ate a glorious and quite bonkers feast at his Michelin-starred restaurant. Parma ham featured prominently, along with the region’s other great gift to the stomach, parmesan cheese.
The six glutamate-laden courses included a luxurious squid, prawn and prosciutto crudo risotto. This was good, surprisingly, since you might believe that the last thing you should do to a painstakingly cured and aged piece of meat is cook it. Rossetti’s dessert offering, “Il Club Sandwich di Parma,” was a confection of macaroon with apricot and Parma violets, beached in a sauce of white chocolate with truffle bits. Stuck through the middle of this was a slice of caramelised Parma ham. It was revolting.
With the aperitif—a local fizzy white called Camera picta—we ate slices of 40-month-old Parma ham from the Sant’Ilario factory nearby. This came with little chunks of mostarda di zucca: pumpkin preserved in honey and mustard. The ham was breathtaking: oaky, maroon in colour and unlike any I’ve had before.