Last week, Cantine Ceci hosted a group of American restaurateurs and chefs who had come to visit us here in Parma from California.
One of the stops during their visit was to the famous Antica Corte Pallavicina in the town of Polesine Parmense where the estate produces one of the most famous expressions of Culatello, the “king” of Parma’s cured meats.
The term culatello literally means little butt (as in rear end) and it refers to the butt of the pig, which is used to make this prized category of charcuterie.
After the pig is slaughtered, the butt is cleaned and washed. It is then macerated in a special red wine from Parma known as Fortana (similar to but sweeter than Lambrusco). After the maceration in wine, it is salted and then hung to be aged.
The aging process, which takes place in a darkened and damp cellar, has to last at least 10 months. But the best producers age their culatello for a lot longer.
The thing that sets culatello apart is the greater amount of fat in the butt of the pig. In the photo above, you can see the gentle marbling (i.e., the alternating pink muscle and white fat) of the cured meat. In Prosciutto di Parma, for example, you only see the fat on the edges.