San Daniele is made only with pigs born, reared and slaughtered exclusively in Italy. The pigs are fed a controlled diet, as set out in the Production Specifications, based on milk whey and high-quality cereals. Processing only begins for thighs which pass the preliminary compliance check.The selected meats are stored for 24 hours at a temperature ranging from -1°C to +3°C to make them “tone up”. Finally, they are trimmed with suitable cuts to encourage moisture loss.
After a further 24 hours the thighs are covered with sea salt and laid out at a temperature between 0°C and 4°C. Traditionally, each ham rests in this condition for the same number of days as its weight in kilograms. This process allows its natural preservation, maintaining the integrity of the meat and improves its taste.
After salting, the hams are pressed along the muscle mass in order to make the salt penetrate deep into the meat and give it an optimal consistency for the subsequent curing process. This phase, exclusive to San Daniele, gives the prosciutto its characteristic guitar shape.
The salted thighs are then left to rest in large, dedicated rooms, which are maintained at a variable humidity of between 70% and 80% and a temperature of between 4°C and 6°C. This phase lasts until the fourth month after the start of processing and allows the salt to penetrate evenly and be distributed uniformly inside the ham.
After resting, the thighs are washed with warm water. This phase is especially important because it encourages the toning of the meat and, with the change of temperature, the maturing process begins.
The Production Specifications provide that curing must take place strictly within the municipal territory of San Daniele del Friuli and that it must last at least until the thirteenth month after the start of processing. Throughout this time, it is essential that conditions of optimum temperature, humidity and ventilation are maintained.
Grease or the “sugna”, a paste consisting of pig fat and rice or wheat flour, is spread on the part not covered by the rind, in order to protect and at the same time soften that portion of the ham, thus preventing the underlying meat from drying out.
The entire process must be periodically checked during curing, and this is done through a series of regular checks that are performed on each individual thigh. Two types of checks are carried out: pounding to check the consistency of the ham and piercing, which consists in inserting a horse-bone needle into certain points of the meat to assess its state of curing and its quality through the smell.
Only at the end of the thirteenth month the IFCQ, the testing and certifying body, carries out the last product checks. Only hams that pass these tests are certified and branded with the San Daniele trademark, which includes the producer’s identification code and guarantees the quality of the product.