Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Traditional dalmatian prosciutto is a local specialty
We Dalmatians are proud of our nature. With mountains touching the sea, wind and salt in our hair, and amazing food at our tables, we enjoy life all day every day. And we've find a perfect way to put all those things together in one perfect piece of meat: we're talking about Dalmatian Prosciutto!
The tale of Dalmatian prosciutto (or 'pršut') is as old as the land of Dalmatia itself. So we're talking thousands of years here. Imagine you belonged to a tribe called Dalmati, living in this piece of paradise a couple of thousands years ago. You had your family, a tribe, you had livestock you took care of, you had your boat, your house. You also had the entire Roman Empire breathing down your neck most of the time. You were rebellious (a trait we still carry around with us to this day) and you were always on the move. You also didn't have a fridge.
You needed to think of a way to preserve that pork any way possible. So it would last longer. And you could carry it across the mountains for months if needed. Sitting under a fig tree outside one day you've came to a conclusion: "We shall salt this meat, and then smoke it, dry it out in bura wind, and it will last for years. And it shall be the most delicious piece of meat anyone ever tasted - Romans be damned!" We're exaggerating, of course, but we like to think that it went something like that.
Prosciutto is very salty and must be carved to very thin slices
In all seriousness, though, many swear that authentic Dalmatian prosciutto is among the best ones in the world. And what makes it really special is the process of production. The prosciutto must be salted within 24 to 96 hours since fresh meat was cut and prepped in the slaughterhouse. After salting, the meat is pressed so any extra water or fluids would come out and not spoil the prosciutto in the making. Unlike the Istrian/Italian/Spanish prosciutto, for example, Dalmatian prosciutto is both air-dried and smoked. For at least one year. This is where bura wind comes into play. Tumbling down from the mountains, bura brings clear, fresh air to our homes and smokehouses. It dries out the salted and pressed meat, pushing the salt deeper through the skin, and bringing the aromas of the burned wood deeper into the meat. The bigger the original ham was, the longer the process. So the complete process can last for years even.
This unique process of production has even been recognized in 2016 by the European Commission, and Dalmatian prosciutto has been registered with the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), making it the ninth Croatian product protected on the European Union market.
Prosciutto, figs and honey are a must-try
There's a lot of effort and skill that goes into the making of authentic Dalmatian prosciutto (hence the price), so we eat it in most special occasions, much like Makarana cake. No wedding or a family celebration will go without prosciutto, along with some other local delicacies. It is often given as a thank you gift to special friends; you know, the ones who did you favors and took extra care of you when you needed them. Prosciutto is also often kept in houses, just in case anyone drops by unannounced - so you can treat unexpected guests with something amazing before the main course. It is universally loved, and we keep it close to our hearts. In fact, we even have a saying about it: "At least there's prosciutto!"