Parma di Prosciutto & Parmigiano Reggiano - The Real Deal

One of the many great aspects of living in a multicultural Australia is having access to an array of delicious cuisine and quality ingredients.

In Australia, however, the idea that a food can be protected and limited by a law according to where it originates, is a fairly unusual concept.

Unusual yet intriguing.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) schemes, common throughout the European Union, are enforced to protect the reputation of the regional foods, eliminate unfair competition, promote rural and agricultural activity, help producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and prevent consumers being misled by non-genuine products.

Two such products available in Australia are Prosciutto di Parma ( or Parma Ham) and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Both products are steeped in tradition and use centuries-old natural production methods without the use of chemical preservatives or additives.

But many Aussies are being misled and are paying a premium for inauthentic products.

In late 2006, the first pallets of Parma ham landed in Australia. Back then “ Every man and his dog had a permit, but the majority were merchants, importing on price not quality. We saw a big variation in prosciutto and a lot of people were disappointed” small goods supplier Clayton Wright told the Sydney Morning Herald.

At a recent lunch hosted at Stefano Manfredi's Sydney restaurant Balla, award-winning Italian chef Luca Ciano told guests that a crowded marketplace of cured meats and lack of education on how to pick the best, has led to Australian’s missing out on the authentic product.


“ The strictest of guidelines are adhered to when producing Prosciutto di Parma to ensure consistently high quality ham. For example, the pig must be a specific breed from one of the northern Italian regions and must be fed a diet of grain, cereal and whey from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ( authentic Parmesan) before it is even considered to become prosciutto di Parma” says Ciano.

The pale, sweet & creamy prosciutto is made of just four ingredients - pork, sea salt, air and time. Aged for 15 months ( Pictured) 

Today, there are approximately 15 producers authorised to import their product into Australia.

Mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma & rocket @ Balla

“ Once you’ve tried Prosciutto di Parma you’ll know the difference as it will melt in your mouth” says Ciano.

The most amazing calamari & asparagus salad w/ crispy prosciutto di Parma @ Balla


Quality Inspection - Photo Source:Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium
Referred to as the ‘King of Cheeses’ , Parmigiano Reggiano is 100 per cent natural and every wheel is aged for a minimum of 12 months which is unlike other cheeses says Ciano. “ There are many other types of inauthentic Parmesan cheese on the market here in Australia - some are blends with other Italian cheeses and others use chemicals to mature and preserve the cheese”.

Parmesan production is confined to the area highlighted in pink. Production of Parma ham is restricted to Parma itself also seen on the map. 

 18 Month ( front) 24 Month Parmigiano Reggiano ( back)
“One thing most people don't realise about authentic Parmesan is just how versatile it is. It can be eaten as a food in small chunks, as a condiment grated on dishes or as an ingredient used in recipes” says Ciano.

Veal wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma @ Balla
Gabriele Taddeucci telling us about the dishes he created using the two prized ingredients

Ciano says that Australian’s are spoilt for choice when it comes to imported and local food products for sale at local delis, but there is a definite difference when it comes to premium products like Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano. “ If consumers want a genuine product they have to ask for it and make sure they are getting it” he says.

Parmigiano Reggiano Risotto w/ 'Il Caratello' Balsamic @ Balla Restaurant, Sydney.
Photo Source: C. Chattaway
According to a recent IbisWorld report, Australian delicatessens have struggled over the last five years. However, a new shift in consumer demand for premium products has seen delicatessens at the high-end of the market perform well.

Olive oil mousse, marinated strawberries & Parmesan crisp @ Balla

Prosciutto di Parma - The quality of Prosciutto di Parma is guaranteed only when it has been fire-branded with the five point ducal crown, a stamp of authenticity.

Authentic Parma Ham. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Parmigiano Reggiano carries a pin dot stamp on the rind, and where appropriate, the Parmigiano Reggiano logo on the packet. 

Photo: Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium

The Food Mentalist dined at Balla as a guest for this event.


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