What is Culatello di Zibello?
The Rolls Royce of Italian ham, Culatello is one of the most prized cured meats from Italy. In fact, it is so coveted that Italian markets won’t even consider it a type of deli meat. Culatello is made with the muscular part of the hind leg, which is the most prized cut of the pig. Culatello production begins in the region of Emilia-Romagna with pigs that have been fattened on legumes and grains.Read More
After the hind leg has been boned and divided, the Culatello is massaged with garlic and wine, then with salt and pepper. To keep its characteristic tenderness, the Culatello is packed in a clean pig’s bladder, which gives it a unique pear shape, and then decoratively bundled with twine.
The history of Culatello di Zibello
Historical documentation of Culatello first surfaced in the 15th century, where it was said to be produced in the flatlands of Northern Parma, a city in the Emilia-Romagna region. In Northern Italy, butchers used curing techniques that relied on the outside atmosphere and environment to create a distinctive flavor like no other. In the case of Culatello ham, it was the damp fog and cold winter air from the Po River that gave the meat a sweet and velvety flavor. In order to preserve the high quality and unique flavor of this top-rated ham, Culatello di Zibello was given its DOP label from the European Union, which protects its designation of origin and production.
What makes Culatello di Zibello different?
Culatello is special in its entirety, from texture, to taste, to look; there is no other ham like it. The secret to its distinctive flavor is the curing process, which involves air-drying the meat in a cool and dry cantina for 14 to 48 months.
Unlike its half sibling Prosciutto di Parma, which is air-dried in a climate controlled room, the Culatello ham needs around-the-clock attention. Known as the “salumio,” the expert meat tender relies on instinct and experience to be able to open the windows at the right times and frequency. The cold air wafting off the Po River is what gives Culatello its silky, nuanced flavor that melts in your mouth; the damp fog also helps the meat form the “muffa noble” (noble mold).
What are some uses for Culatello di Zibello?
Since Culatello is considered a gourmet delicacy, many people prefer to eat it by itself along with cheese and fruit on an antipasto platter. For a gourmet twist on classic Italian sandwiches, place a few parchment-paper thin slices between two pieces of crusty bread and get ready to experience the unique aromas of the region.
Like its curing techniques, the slicing method of Culatello also follows strict guidelines, which starts with carefully removing the skin along with any fat. When you’re ready to cut, use a meat slicer for precise scalloped edges and paper-thin slices. The best way to serve Culatello is by spreading it with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Proceed to wrap it in a linen towel and saturate with white wine to soften the meat. To maintain its flavor, Culatello should be stored in a dry place, but never be refrigerated.
Where to buy Culatello di Zibello
If you can’t make the trip to Zibello, Italy, you can shop at Supermarket Italy and treat yourself to the closest version of the real thing. Our brands of Culatello ham are produced in the U.S. and use the same recipes and carefully handcrafted techniques they do in Parma. If you’re looking for Culatello ham for sale, shop our selection of gourmet cured meats and bon appetito!