A slice of cool sweet melon wrapped in salty, savory dry-cured ham is an iconic Italian nosh and as refreshing as can be, especially when it’s enjoyed under the Tuscan sun. While this popular dish is often served as an appetizer, snack or light meal, it’s anything but cliche. In fact the history of prosciutto e melone is a centuries-old rich and interesting one.
With Roots in Medicine
The Romans, in the 2nd century, held a belief that mixing cold, moist foods with hot dry ones provided a healthy boost to the immune system. Many of the learned people of that time believed in the ancient medicinal practice of humorism, founded by a doctor named Galeno.
Among its tenets, humanism included balancing the four key elements of fire, air, earth and water as a way to avoid illness. Galeno promoted food as medicine and in this respect was way ahead of his time. Balance is the path to good health.
One of the ways the Romans adopted to facilitate this practice was by eating cured meat with fruit. Although the raw, cured meat we’ve come to recognize as prosciutto crudo had yet to be invented, those early Romans were onto something delicious.
Prosciutto e melone was portable enough to sustain the farmers during their very long, hot days in the fields, light enough to enjoy in the very warm summers and simple to prepare.
Balancing Flavor for Your Health and Your Palate
In medieval times the melon was considered dangerous to eat on its own. This was because of the melon’s cool and juicy nature. In order to balance this Italians wrapped the fruit in dry, salty meat.
The balance of salty and sweet has long been a palate-pleaser preferred by people all over the world. Just look at the recent popularity of everything caramel and sea salt! It's not just a marketing trend. For the perfect prosciutto e melone only the best prosciutto will do.
Simply the Best
Because of regional diversity and culinary culture not all prosciutto in Italy tastes the same. In Tuscany the unique blend of fresh air, rolling hills and the sea-fed breezes off the Tyrrhenian creates a microclimate and the perfect environment for aging prosciutto.
Tuscan prosciutto is cured in the traditional Italian manner, but with the addition of local flavor from spices such as juniper, rosemary and black peppercorns. Prosciutto Toscana is recognized by the arched shape, deep red color and white streaks.
Prosciutto Crudo Toscano DO
Another way to identify this flavorful meat is through its protected designation of origin or DOP. This Denominazione D’Origine Protetta is a classification earned only if every step in the production meets regulations. DOP Prosciutto Crudo Toscano must be sourced from humanely-raised pigs, the leg meat seasoned by hand and cured in special rooms with specific controlled temperature and humidity for a minimum of 12 months. This process is deeply rooted in culinary customs dating back to the House of Medici in the 15th century.
Simple Fare That’s Pretty Perfect
Beyond the succulent flavor pairing of prosciutto e melone there truly are health benefits to be had. Vitamins, good fat, fiber and protein are packed into this luscious nosh. This classic Tuscan fare is simple, colorful, easy and elegant and a satisfying bite on a summer’s day. Prosciutto e melone is the ideal treat to be enjoyed as lunch or part of an aperitivo spread. It can even be enjoyed as a light meal on the terrazzo at the setting of the Tuscan sun.
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