We dry cure meat. At its simplest, we add salt, remove water, and age the meat. This has been done for millenia—the first recipe for prosciutto that we know of comes from Cato in 200 BC. The earliest dry cured hams were said to be made around 600 BC.
Step 1—Salting: This is done at cold temperature—below 40 degrees F. The cold inhibits bacterial growth while the salt penetrates and drives moisture out of the meat. We use no nitrates or other preservatives. Many “uncured” meats are treated with nitrates from celery or other vegetative sources. We use none of the above.
Step 2—Riposo: This can be done in many ways, but it consists of drying the meat at cold temperature and allowing the salt to penetrate through the meat. Riposo is an Italian word which means rest. In the USA it is known as equalization.
Step 3—Aging/Stagionatura: Once the meat has lost sufficient moisture, it is ready to be moved into higher temperatures where it develops its special texture, aroma, and flavor. This can be done at a wide range of temperatures.
Step 4: Trim and Package: To prevent oxidation and preserve the quality of the meat, we vacuum pack whole piece meats and seal sliced meats in modified atmosphere packaging.
Years ago, this work was done with the seasons—the cold of December for Salting, the winds of January and February for Riposo, and the cellar for Aging. Our building is set up on this model so that we have winter rooms, spring rooms and summer rooms. Instead of being subject to the weather at any specific stage, which could be more or less favorable, we are able to control temperature and humidity and make every year the best prosciutto year ever!
It has been hard for us to navigate the highly eroded language of meat labelling. Third party standards can develop, evolve, improve, and worsen.
We decided to establish our own standards and hold our meat suppliers to them: no pork from confinement facilities or from animals fed non-therapeutic antibiotics. We require that growers provide the pigs space to socially congregate, a place to bed in deep bedding, and access to the out of doors.
To enforce these standards, we clearly communicate them to our suppliers and do occasional grower visits. This pretty much works. However, we would love to see reliable, widely used, third party audited standards. The USDA offers this service, but virtually no one uses it. Whole Foods supported development of a new set of standards through Global Animal Partnership or GAP that are audited, but they have restricted them for their own use. We would like to see use of these standards opened up so that consumers could know in more detail, and more reliably, the practices of animal farmers raising their meat. The Animal Welfare Institute’s standards are excellent. Humane Farm Animal Care and the American Humane Association are comparable to GAP 1 standards.
For each cut we use—hams, bellies, collars, loins, backfat, and jowls—we provide our supplier with detailed specifications, so that we can get meat that suits our atypical needs as a dry curing operation. These specs include a few positive traits that make the cuts good for our use and numerous negative traits that are a basis for rejection.
We use organic spices whenever possible. Our supplier, Oregon Spice Company, has rigorous safety controls to ensure the purity and integrity of their spices.
We use pure sea salt from the United States.
We have no known allergens in any of our ingredients, including no gluten.
Everything we make is dry-cured and raw, and may be eaten cooked or uncooked.