Prosciutto is one of the world's most beloved dried hams, along with Spanish jamon Iberico, France's Bayonne hams -- treasured since Roman times -- and the Yunan hams of China. Like America's own dry-cured "country hams," a whole prosciutto is often deboned before it's used for other purposes. Prosciutto contains the same bones as any other whole ham, though the process is slightly more difficult because the dried flesh is very dense and harder to cut.
Things You'll Need
- Sharp boning knife
- Stiff brush
Remove any netting or wrapping from the prosciutto. If there is any visible mold on the outside of the ham, trim it away with a sharp knife or scrub it off with a stiff brush.
Locate the portion of the hog's hip bone -- the "aitch" bone -- sticking out of the butt portion of the prosciutto, at the thick end. Insert the tip of a thin, sharp boning knife and cut around this bone. Angle the knife point inward because the bone narrows just behind the exposed portion. With the bone exposed, cut through the socket holding it to the thigh bone. The end will come away in your hand if you wiggle it and pull.
Make a complete cut around the thin, shank end of the prosciutto. Remove the cut-off end pieces, reserving them. Slide the tip of your knife between the flesh and the bone, loosening the flesh all the way around the bone.
Return to the butt end of the prosciutto and repeat this process, freeing the muscles from the thigh bone.
Examine the prosciutto closely, and you'll see that it's divided into two main muscle groups. Slice open the seam dividing those two muscles with your boning knife, then turn the ham over and repeat on the other side. Trim around the knee joint to release the smaller "half" of the prosciutto. Set this aside.
Cut around the remainder of the knee joint with your boning knife to free the larger portion of the prosciutto. Some portions will still be connected to the thigh and shin bones, so free them as needed by trimming closely along the bone.
Brush the exposed portions of the ham lightly with olive oil to prevent them drying out and wrap the prosciutto tightly. Slice it paper-thin as needed, or cut it into smaller portions for freezing.
Tips & Warnings
- Save the bone and any small trimmings and fragments. They can be used to make a richly-flavored broth, and small fragments of prosciutto can be crisped and added to pasta sauces or other dishes.
- Exercise caution when you're cutting a prosciutto because it requires a high degree of strength to cut the dense meat and a dull knife makes accidents more likely. To reduce the risk of serious injury, negotiate to rent a chain-mail apron and glove from your local butcher or the meatcutting program at a technical school in your area.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- Potential Gold: Deboning a Prosciutto di Parma
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images