Meat+Poultry - June 2018 - 24
"You won't see
only hear the
sound of the
- DAVIDE DUKCEVICH
visual cue that the salt has reached the bone
and that spoiling cannot occur.
At the end of the cold phase, hams are
moved to what Stefano compares to a giant,
vertical car wash, to rinse the salt off of
the hams with water and bring them out of
hibernation. "After so many months of a cool
environment, the hams tend to tighten up,"
he says. "So, you wash them to loosen up the
muscle again to continue drying."
Towering racks of hanging prosciutto
are packed into specific aging rooms, each
rack holding hundreds of hams that have
been aging for 10 to 14 months. During those
months, the products are moved to rooms
that simulate the climates in southern Europe.
This is part of the history of prosciutto
production, Stefano says. "Originally, you
couldn't dry cure in Germany; you can't do it
somewhere like the Czech Republic because
it's just too cold."
After about four or five months of curing,
the surface of the hams becomes dry. To ensure
the exchange of moisture into and out of the
ham is maintained through the face, a process
of "greasing" the hams with a brushed-on
mixture of lard and spices ensures the surface
remains permeable, allowing for continued
When the drying and curing process is
complete, the hams are deboned and trimmed
by hand, and smaller chunks of it are combined
in another automated process that presses
them to form long bricks, which are designed
for high-speed slicing. Currently, the Pascoag
plant houses 11 slicing lines in addition to
seven other lines at its two legacy plants.
INVESTING IN TRADITION
The brothers are aware of the risk they took in
making such a hefty investment in automation at
a level no other company can approach. But the
leap of faith wasn't taken without calculation.
"We put a lot of faith in what we know
generationally, in the way the products and
the systems work along with the input of the
super-talented people who work
with us and the suppliers we work
with who have a forward-thinking
mentality and a rules-bending
mentality to marry those
efficiencies," Stefano says.
The family's investment in
its operations, over $100 million
in the past five years or so, has
been steady and significant
as demand and popularity
of charcuterie in the US has
gradually increased. Unlike in
Italy or Spain, prosciutto isn't
exactly a staple in US households.
It isn't uncommon for Daniele
to receive daily inquiries about
how to prepare and serve the
product. However, the market
is mature compared to 20 years
ago, Davide says, especially in the
last five years. Nowadays, almost
every supermarket and a growing
number of retail outlets, including
Costco and big-box brands carry
The sons speak of their father
with reverence, saying it is thanks
to pioneers like him that a growing
number of artisan, dry-cured
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