It Can Be Done...
The beautiful Prosciutto I watched Matteo, the Sous Chef, de-bone was aged 36 months in our cantina. This leg, one of three, was the driest and it was time to open it up. Making Prosciutto and Prosciutto di Parma is one in the same; the only difference is in the naming. Prosciutto di Parma is Parma Ham from the area of Parma in Italy. You can make Prosciutto anywhere and call it as you wish.
And so the process goes:
Here is a shot of the whole Prosciutto from the bottom angle. As you can see, where the skin ends, and the meat is visible, a nice layer of crusty, old molds has formed, protecting the meat from drying out too much. Also, you can see the trademark Parma Crown branded onto the ham.
Here is a top view of the Prosciutto. On the skin is a reference for size - this is a typical 'knife' used for de-boning the ham. This knife is not sharp and is used to follow the bone and scrape away any of the meat. It helps more than you may think as the meat of such an aged Prosciutto is very dry and tough. NOT an easy process.
We start off by cutting the Fiochetto from the Prosciutto. Basically, we here divide the Prosciutto into two main parts. There is the Fiochetto, the smaller lump of meat, and the Culatello, the grander, main part of the Prosciutto. There is a bone that separates the Fiochetto from the Culatello and that is out guide.
Once removed, we inspect the color and aroma of the ham. In this photo you can notice that the knee cap is still attached. It will be removed later. This cross section of meat is what the marketing people use when taking photos of the Prosciutto as the meat to fat is rather low and 'good' looking with the marbling, etc.
This view is of the rest of the ham, without the Fiochetto. Here you can see the actual knee joint exposed. Again, that will be our guide.
Peek-a-boo....I see you! With a circular motion, the "H" bone is removed.
The next step is to make an incision all the way around the shank part of the Prosciutto. In the end, this will be where the bone falls away from. Pay close attention to the muscles in Mateo's hands. It is really a struggle to get through the dried, aged skin and meat.
Once the incision is made, the skin is shaved away from the knee joint to the shank. This exposes the rest of the shank as well as one of the two bones. Following the bones of the shank as a guide, we score and mark the path we will take when ready.
Here you can see us using the special 'knife'. As you can see, we insert it at the joint and push it along the course of the bone, till the ball joint at the other end, and then all the way around the bone. This really separates the meat from the bone and also is a tough process.
Once the bone is quasi free, the 'knife' is used to free up the area around the ball joint. This step was the toughest because, naturally, this is the driest part of the Prosciutto, where the bone is exposed to all the elements.
At this point we bring back our boning knife and go to work. This part is fun and is just like de-boning any other leg of fresh meat. Remember to stay close to the bone and the chef won't get too upset!
Here, the bone has been removed and you can see the bone is quite white, we did'nt leave too much meat on it. The fat cap, where the meat was exposed, is still there. Before use, you must remove all the skin and protection. From here, you can make a great Prosciutto broth with the bone or pull the UT off and use it in a Tortelli filling.
From another angle, you can see better here, on the Fiochetto, where the knee cap has been removed. The Fiochetto will get sliced lengthwise and the Prosciutto, ready right now, will be sliced by its width. If desired, now you would use butcher twine and tie your Prosciutto closed where the removal of the bone has left its mark.
In the US I have never worked with a bone in Prosciutto di Parma. I think there are import regulations against importing cured meat on the bone, and so, our Prosciutto arrives already boned from Italy.
I hope you enjoy this information. If used, please link your work back to this web site. Please leave your comments or questions in the COMMENT section.