The New/Old ProductWe finally have reached a point in our product development where we can make available Culatello in the true style of Italy and Zibello (Parma). Culatello is one of the most prestigious of salumi made in Italy. It is nearly impossible to find in the US and we are so very proud of our process to be able to now offer it in its proper form.
Culatello is made from the back leg of the pig and then only the rear part of the leg, freed from the bone and skin. It is really the heart of the Prosciutto but it is handled very differently. The large side (butt) of the ham is carefully removed away from the bone and skin. We do this is in order to leave as much fat on as there is from the fresh ham. We then massage each future Culatello at various times during the cure. The emerging Culatello is then respiced and meticulously tied into a pearshape form ready for cure. Our current Culatelli are 6-8 months in age and we have those now in process that will be released after one year. Aging really adds layers of flavor onto the Culatello and a sampling at various ages distinctly gives a real sense of the time factor to one's taste buds. Culatello is so very different from Prosciutto - its flavor is more intense, its texture creamier, its coloring more beautiful and varied.
Good Pigs Make Good CulatelloOur pigs come from Oregon from one of the highest quality suppliers in the Oregon Wine Country and from a tiny supplier near Mt. Rainier in the State of Washington. We are also receiving legs from Heritage Farms (Slow Food), as they are interested in providing "lost" breeds and from heritage growers in both Washington and Oregon. We are intensely interested in advancing both the breed and of course the Culatello we make from those breeds, validating flavor. It is most gratifying to hear from small heritage growers wanting us to try their legs for evaluation. This makes this "artisan" salumi making so close to our Salumi mission of preserving and advancing the art of meat curing traditions. It is so gratifying to be involved with the advancement of "Pigdom".
Culatello, The TraditionThe Europeans have built a series of wonderful traditions surrounding food and wine and life in general over many centuries. For example, the people of Emilia Romagna have built an industry around the cult of Culatello. The foggy days of winter and the hot days of summer embue their Culatelli with a quality and flavor that are unique to the area. The quality and flavor of the Culatello is based on the care and special diets of the pigs in conjunction with the environment of the so-famous Po river, the fog in fall and winter, and the heat of summer. Taking into consideration all these parameters, Salumi artisans in Italy have an impeccable honest marketing "scheme" that is most difficult to compete with in other parts of the world.
Another example in this series is the promotions of the Prosciutto producers in Italy who market these products by promoting the care and feeding of the pigs - what they eat - from the whey of the Reggiano Parmagiano to the chestnuts. Another in this series is how the French market Nouveau Beaujolais, so young and yet so simple and fresh and local. All these are so beautiful and add that wonderment about the flavors that have made these products so global and so good. Add to this the environmentally correctness that the world is so much more aware of today, and you have the finest products in the World.
CuringThe curing rooms for Culatello in and around Parma are, in the main, the same as they have been for 50-100 years. The professional makers of Culatello use this environment to create molds that contribute to the Culatello flavor. The curing rooms have been in existence for years, through the floods of the Po, through all the environmental history of nature. One sees wood racks of future Culatello "vacationing" in the winter sun outside exposing themselves to the Po.
Because of the great flavor of Culatello and potential market, the Italian producers are undertaking to build new curing facilities to the HACCP/USDA Standards required by the European Community and the US and Asian Markets. Of course the dilemma is trading tradition and natural environment for process control, romance and intuition for food-science and a traceable production cycle. This is much like the the Prosciutto producers had to do a few years back to sell in the US market.
During a recent visit to Italy we saw new curing rooms in construction full of high tech - with controlled humidity and temperature and other digitally controlled aspects of curing. Our positions in time, global markets and our health laws here and elsewhere around the world have driven the industry to this. These new rooms are designed to maintain some of the old traditional meat curing parameters (like temporarily opening the curing room windows to the air) yet are artificially controlled and designed to control humidity and temperature. In fact, the manufacturers of this type of equipment are Italian companies selling their design to the rest of the world.
Salumi CulatelloThis is the 21st Century and we're seeing the food business grow as it has never grown before. The chefs of the day are the stars of the day, high profiled, caring for tradition, yet adding their American International touch to creativity, all within the bounds of our environment, our food growing ability, our styles. They don't forget the past, they use it to build on a new future.
Forever the Italians have made things their way, and or course with real success. However we don't have the Po River in Seattle. We produce our Culatello paying special attention to our very special Northwest microclimate: rain, a moderate amount of humidity, occasional fog and wonderful soft temperatures. We are right on Puget Sound and encircled by the Snoqualmie River, the Green River, the Snohomish River and many others all heading for Puget Sound and the salty sea in Northwest Washington. Add to this the controlled environmental curing process that we here at Salumi developed whilst adding the ability to input Puget Sound Environment during our curing process gives us our new tradition no so far from the old. Our Culatello and our products are to our styles, our environment, our processes, our hands, yielding wonderful cream flavors and softness. We just don't have the 2000 years of tradition - at least not yet.