What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot when it comes to ham. If it’s going by its Italian name, “prosciutto,” it commands a respect it never gets as just plain “ham.” Of course, when it’s genuine Prosciutto di Parma (the famed Parma ham of Italy’s gastronomical center), the respect is well earned.
One of the world’s oldest hams, Prosciutto di Parma is made using an ancient dry salt and air cure, exactly like America’s celebrated country hams, except those are often smoked. Parma’s hams aren’t. Dry-salt curing safely “cooks” prosciutto, so while it’s sometimes used in cooking, it’s best cut wafer thin and eaten unadorned, with only the simplest accompaniments—chunks of cool melon, ripe figs, and slivers of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
—Damon Lee Fowler