Culatello is one of Italy’s best known and most prized salumi. It comes from the province of Parma and is made by curing only the rear muscle of the haunch of pigs born, raised and butchered in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna, which explains its fairly high cost. It is shaped like a large egg and weighs about 6 1/2 pounds. It has been eligible for DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) recognition since 1996.
Culatello is primarily produced in parts of the Bassa Verdiana (so called because its center is Busseto, the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi) between the ancient Roman rode known as Via Aemilia and the Po River, a very humid area that is perfect for aging this charcuterie. It is served in restaurants along with other salumi as the “house appetizer,” in thin slices and accompanied by buttered toast. But the best way to serve it is with the classic “gnocco fritto” bread you find in Emilia, made with a dough of water, flour, salt and baking soda, cut into square or rectangular pieces and fried in lard.
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