Culatello is one of the most prized salumi in Italy, dating back to the 15th century. Culatello is produced in the flatlands located north of Parma, near the Po River. The city of Zibello is epicenter of production (Culatello di Zibello), due to its particular climate that is ideal for aging the meat. The thick fog that rolls off the Po and the biting cold of the winter give culatello its characteristic sweetness and fragrance.
Culatello is made with the muscular part of the hind leg of pigs that were born, raised and slaughtered exclusively in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy. The meat is then processed in the communes of Polesine, Busseto, Zibello, Soragna, Roccabianca, San Secondo, Sissa and Colorno, in the province of Parma. The thigh is skinned and de-boned, and the best part, or heart, is removed and salted immediately.
Twine is then wrapped around the meat in a spiral fashion, giving the culatello its signature pear shape. The meat is left to rest and after a couple of days it is massaged, causing the salt to further penetrate the meat. The culatello is left to rest again, in a cold environment, and is then encased in a clean, dry pork bladder and tied up well.
At this point, the culatello is placed in humid, room-temperature cellar for at least 12 months. Once it has been aged, the culatello should weigh between 6 ½ and 11 lbs and have kept its characteristic pear shape.
Parma versus Colatello
Parma ham is sweet and tender.
Culatellois is a bit saltier than Parma ham, with lots of flavor that comes out when chewing it--rich and sometimes peppery and aromatic.