Four Seasons of Prosciutto
August 10, 2011
Brampton plant straddles old world, new world . . .
The world’s largest prosciutto plant outside of Italy is right in our city’s backyard. Who knew?
The heady porky, peppery aroma of 120,000 prosciutto hams is intoxicating as I step into the the aging room at Santa Maria Foods in Brampton, Ont. The room is a feast for the eyes, too. Prosciuttos hang 80 to a rack, up to 95 lines down and 18 rows across. Do the math and a full house would be 136,800. That’s a lot of good eating.
Chief prosciutto maker Mike Pallotta, 28 years at Santa Maria, inserts a wicked sharp horse-bone pick into one of the prosciuttos and sniffs. No off odors – it passes the test. This is the traditional way to test prosciutto, and stangely appropriate here. We may be in a modern, clean, stainless steel environment, but the prosciuttos themselves are cured traditionally, using the natural ingredients salt, lard, pepper and time.
Toronto shoppers are no strangers to Santa Maria’s San Daniele and Mastro brands of prosciutto, mortadella and salami. But they don’t know much about Santa Maria (www.santamariafoods.com). Italo Rizzutto, an immigrant from Abruzzi, started the mother company back in 1978.
I am enjoying a rare tour of the plant despite sweating and wrestling with food safety gear. By the time I am done, I will have donned three different lab coats, a hair net and a face mask, and clodhopped through the 185,000-square-foot plant in size 12, steel-toed wellies.
Plant manager Isaias Vizinho guides us through the old-world, 10-month process that transforms a pork leg into prosciutto. “It’s basically modern technology matching the four seasons of Italy,” he says. “We try to mimic the seasons in a controlled environment.”
In “winter,” the hams go in. In “fall,” they come out. If you knew what you were sniffing for, you could follow your nose from one production stage to another.
As we move from room to room, stage to stage, the aromas change, from salty pork to peppery dry cured ham. Sizes and colours change, too. By the time a prosciutto is ready for market, it has gone from pink to yellowish to red-brown, and has lost two-thirds of its moisture.
Prosciutto proves it: There’s something magical about food science.
The Making of Prosciutto
There are no words to derscibe how bodacious this is.
-- by Marnie on 2011-09-04 07:08:42
The purcahess I make are entirely based on these articles.
-- by Marylada on 2011-09-03 16:22:04
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