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choice 'little bum' ham

The finest, most meltingly tender and complex of all Italian hams, culatello (literally 'little bum') is the best part of the ham, deboned and cured tied up in a clean pig's bladder for 16 to 37 months. It only comes from the Padana, or Po plain shared by Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, where the humidity and fog of winter and heat of summer combine to create just the right mould spores to create Italy's tastiest pork.

DOP culatello comes from large white Zibello pigs, raised near Parma; it's also in the Ark of Taste. Originally black pigs were used, and there's been a revival on some farms, but the result which some say is superior won't be labelled DOC. Also see fiocchetto, 'culatello's little brother.' In Piacenza province, they make a close cousin with the bone in called culatta.

Culaccia, made by the Salumificio Rossi from Parma, is much the same, only cured in its rind instead of the bladder.

For beef, culata or culatello can also mean what is usually called scamone: sirlon or tenderloin.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Gail