We continue our journey through the secrets of master butchers to learn to recognize and evaluate the quality of raw prosciutto. In the previous post we dealt with the visual aspect, in this article we analyze the olfactory and taste aspects.
The olfactory aspect
The first olfactory test on the prosciutto already happened during ageing, the ‘puntatura’. Here the taster pricks the thigh with a special needle to examine the scent and the dryness. Knowing the olfactory characteristics of prosciutto is also useful for a consumer when they purchase.
Normally, the scent intensity of the lean part and the sweetness of the fatty part are evaluated. An essential characteristic of this sliced meat is its particular bouquet of fragrances, the aroma of seasoning. A good raw prosciutto must have a slight scent of dried fruit, hazelnut, a hint of toast and a slight smell of salt. The fatty part should have a sweeter ‘buttery’ smell. The prosciutto should also carry the typical smells of the area where it was seasoned, which is why sliced prosciutto exudes a symphony of aromas that varies from region to region.
Unpleasant, pungent smells such as raw or rancid meat, or boar, often referred to as the ‘smell of pork’, are an indication of faulty processing, maturing or poor meat quality.
The taste aspect
The fundamental characteristic of a good prosciutto’s taste is the balance between sweetness and flavour. The aftertaste must bring back a sense of the aroma of the seasoned lean part and the sweet smell of fat. Hints of acid, bitterness, iron or foreign aromas such a ‘closed’ smell are considered defects.