Prosciutto di San Daniele is made with a time-honoured tradition that originated between the eleventh and eighth centuries bc.
Time has transformed this tradition into knowledge and a culture. This culture has survived through the centuries, bringing with it the knowhow and passion of the dedicated people who have made this ham so unique.
San Daniele was ruled by a patriarch for over seven centuries which contributed to much of its success and prosperity. It was the patriarch who granted the privilege of holding a market to San Daniele, with the earliest evidence of free market dating back to 1063. This privilege was later confirmed by Frederick II in 1232.
The physician Geremia Simeoni noted in 1453 his De Conservanda Sanitate manuscript, which is kept in the Guarneriana Library, that although the meat from domestic pigs was difficult to digest “the lean parts preserved in salt can be eaten as hors d’oeuvres”. An age-old tip about how to enjoy ham!
It was reported in the chronicles of the Council of Trent that when the prelates gathered they ate “thirty pairs of hams” (twelve of which were donated by the Patriarch of Aquileia) which had been delivered by mule to Trento from San Daniele, according to a document dated 1st July 1563.
According to local lore, even the officers in Napoleon’s army who went sent to Friuli by General Monge were convinced that Prosciutto di San Daniele was such a delicacy that they looted vast quantities of the ham together with other “treasures” that were kept in the Guarneriana Library.
San Daniele businessmen were looking for ways to boost the economy after the First World War and launched new initiatives that innovated and industrialised the production and sale of the ham. Of note was the way they adapted its packaging to help preserve it for longer thereby making it easier to export.
The Consortium was set up in 1961 and its launch gained notable acclaim thanks to the innovative ideas put forward by a small group of its founders who wanted to register and advertise the brand. Even though not covered by an Italian law, the brand offered a guarantee of quality for a product that was at risk of imitations despite the ham being recognised by consumers. Law no. 507 dated 4th July 1970 was passed and offered a legal base for bringing in measures to protect the “Prosciutto di San Daniele” designation. It was established that to qualify as Prosciutto di San Daniele a ham had to comply with the environmental conditions and production methods that determine its characteristic organoleptic and product-specific properties.
The start of the decade was marked by the first law aimed at protecting the “Prosciutto di San Daniele” designation, inextricably linking every phase of the ham’s production to within the municipality of San Daniele. The town was badly hit by an earthquake in 1976, but despite everything managed to quickly resume production.
The now-famous “Aria di Festa” prosciutto festival was started in conjunction with the Prosandaniele association. It followed a similar format to other traditional summer festivals and placed great emphasis on understanding how to appreciate the ham and raising awareness about the local area.
With the introduction of a new law - Law no. 30 dated 14th February 1990 – it was confirmed that every ham must bear the seal or firebrand with the date on which processing commenced. It also underlined that that every phase of the ham’s preparation, salting and maturation must be done in the San Daniele area. Improper use of the San Daniele name is prohibited, and legs may now only be sold once they have been branded.
With Regulation no. 1107/1996 of 12 June 1996, the designation “Prosciutto di San Daniele” was registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) as part of the first list adopted by the European Commission under the new regulation on the protection of designations of origin. Exports were increasing and the first shipments to America were sent at the end of 1996.