San Daniele is made only with pigs born, raised and slaughtered exclusively in Italy. They are fed a controlled diet based on whey and high-quality grain as set out in the Product Specifications. Only legs that pass the preliminary conformity checks may begin the actual processing procedure. The selected meats are kept for 24 hours at a temperature between -1°C and + 3°C to “tone up” the meat. Finally, they are trimmed with specially chosen cuts to encourage moisture loss.
Twenty-four hours later, the legs are covered with sea salt and hung at a temperature between 0° and 4°C. According to tradition, each ham rests in this state for a period based on its weight, with one day for each kilogram of weight. This process allows the leg to be preserved naturally while maintaining the integrity of the meat and improving its flavour.
After salting, the legs are pressed along the muscle mass to allow the salt to penetrate deeply and give the meat an optimal consistency for the maturing process. Exclusive to San Daniele, this procedure gives it the characteristic guitar shape.
The salted legs are allowed to rest in special rooms, where the humidity is kept between 70% and 80% and the temperature between 4°C and 6°C. This phase continues until the fourth month after the start of processing and allows the salt to penetrate uniformly and become evenly distributed within the meat.
After resting, the legs are washed with tepid water. This phase is very important because it helps tone the meat, while the change in temperature starts the maturing process.
According to the Product Specifications, maturation is strictly restricted to within the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli and must continue until at least the thirteenth month after processing began. It is absolutely essential to maintain optimum temperature, humidity, and ventilation conditions during the entire maturing process
The surface of the exposed, rind-free part of the prosciutto undergoes a process called “sugnatura” or smearing. This involves smearing the exposed meat with a paste made of lard and rice or wheat flour to protect and soften that part of the prosciutto and prevent the meat underneath from drying out.
As the ham matures it needs to be repeatedly checked to see how the process is progressing. This is done by regularly testing each and every leg. Two types of tests are carried out: striking the leg to check the firmness of the ham and pricking it with a horse-bone needle in specific points on the leg and smelling the ham’s aroma to assess the meat’s quality and how it is maturing.
The quality control body IFCQ performs the final checks on the prosciutto only after the end of the thirteenth month. Only prosciutti that pass these tests can be certified and branded with the San Daniele mark, which includes the producer’s identification code and guarantees the quality of the product.