The ancient Greeks used the words περνα (perna), πετασων (petason), σχελις (schelis) and κωλη (coli) in order to denote The fine hams produced in those days. Later, in the Diocletian times, the petaso and perna fumosa (air-dried and smoked ham respectively) was well recognized. In the vast Mediterranean forest base (Dehesa) of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly covered by oaks, as the geographer Srabo highlighted in his writings, the extensive reared Iberico (Iberian) native pig, originated from Sus Mediterraneus, fed in bellotas (acorns) was used for the production of the famous Jamon (ham) and paleta (shoulder), which was imported from Hispania (Spain) at the times of the Roman dominance. The earliest example of prosciutto (from the Italian word prosciugare = to dry out) dated back about 2000 years ago when Romans first used salt to cure hams.
Today, 16 out of the 53 PDO and PGI meat based products from the Mediterranean countries are fermented hams. All the PDO seasoned, dry-cured hams are produced in the Mediterranean countries. The Italian PDO prosciutti (di Carpegna, di Modena, di Parma, di San Daniele, di Veneto Berigo-Euganeo, Toskano, and Valle d'Aosta Jambon de Bosses) outnumber by far the Spanish Jamones (Dehesa de Extremadura, de Huelva, de Teruel and Guijuelo) and the Portuguese Presunto de Barrancos. The raw material characteristics (races, slaughter weight), the processing technology (trimming, salting/curing, resting, initial and final aging, quality testing), the description, the specific labeling and the nutritional value of the end product are discussed. In addition, an outline of the history, the geographic area of production, the annual production, the market share and the perspectives of these important seasoned products in the economy of the Mediterranean countries are presented.
S. B. Ramantanis, F. N. Mantis
Technological Educational Institution (T.E.I.) of Athens, Greece