A Visit to D’Osvaldo, Prosciutto di Cormòns in Friuli, Italy & a recipe for Prosciutto Purses (Fagottini di Prosciutto)

“Each time a language (tradition) dies, another flame goes out, another sound goes silent.”
― Ariel Sabar, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq

Quotes about “traditions” are typically about reasons why we should retire them rather than what we give up when traditions are lost.  Traditions often have an important story that connects us to our past.  While some traditions are probably best left behind, others should be preserved.

Over the past several years we have been traveling extensively throughout the South and most recently to Europe, in search of the best culinary stories.  In our journeys we have met farmers, vintners, distillers, and food artisans who are trying to preserve or revive food traditions.  Professionals from the corporate world, physicians, PhD’s, and attorneys have left burgeoning careers and headed to the farm.  Others have chosen to operate small businesses where they craft a unique product that is made in small batches.

One of D’Osvaldo’s aging rooms

These farmers and artisans are not raising animals or making food products that are intended for the masses.  Rather, they are breathing new life into a lost art and are returning to a simpler life that focuses on quality and taste which differentiates them from most large producers that are more concerned about uniformity, consistency, and maximizing profit.

In an effort to drive consistency and provide control over production for increased safety, government regulators have been tightening controls on farmers and food producers.  Corporate farms sometimes support these regulations as it puts greater pressure on small producers and often leads to their exit from the market as it is too costly and burdensome to comply with the regulations.

On our recent trip to the Friuli-Venizia Giulia region of Italy, we met with several regional food and wine producers.  One of the winemakers, Michele Moschioni (Moschioni Vineyards), spoke about the fact that he liked to produce wine that was different from the other winemakers in Friuli.  It was his uniqueness that shows through in his wines and he was very proud of his craftsmanship.  Michele told us if you have to conform, all the wines taste similar and the artisan’s ability is stifled.

Pancetta (Italian bacon)

In Friuli, there is a strong sense of individuality.  While the regulators have been trying to force greater conformity and standards, as is true in the United States, many artisans in Friuli have clung to their traditional ways.  D’Osvaldo, Prosciutto di Cormòns, is one of these artisans.  Located in the Province of Gorizia in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, this small family business is located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of Gorizia, near the border of Slovenia.

Different aging rooms are used for different meats

Prosciutto di San Daniele is the prosciutto that most people associate with Friuli.  Producing millions of hams each year, this region’s prosciutto characteristics are the result of a combination of the Italian pigs they use and their weight at harvest, the strict diet they are fed, the micro-climate of the region, and the protected process they use to cure the hams.  San Daniele ham has been protected by the Italian Government since 1970.  In 1996, it was recognized as a P.O.D. product (Protected Origin Denomination) by the European Union.  These hams are cured strictly in sea salt.

Spain and Italy are known for aging their meats in salt.  However, many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, did not have access to large amounts of salt years ago.  They used a smoking process to preserve their meats.

Speck during the aging process

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