September 21, 2014: The Prsut of Happyness
Let’s address the elephant in the room: yes, the title of this entry is a pun involving pork products and a Will Smith movie. DEAL WITH IT.
I apologize about being belligerent so early in this post. It’s just that I take my pork products very seriously. This entry, unfortunately, caters in no way to Vegetarians (do they get capitalized?) or non-pork eaters. You are being warned to look away now, unless you get some weird voyeuristic pleasure out of this.
The word for prosciutto in Bosnian is “prsut,” pronounced “Purr-SHOOT.” It is commonly seen here in Banja Luka, sold in sandwiches, pizzas, crepes, and on its own. For someone as pork crazy as me, this was music to my eyes, as the expression doesn’t go. But I soon realized an interesting phenomenon: prosciutto here doesn’t necessarily mean prosciutto. It actually seems to mean a lot of different things.
First, some basics about different pork products, and from whence they originate on the poor pig we are about to eat:
1) From the Belly:
Pancetta: cured with salt, unsmoked pork belly
Bacon (American): cured with salt, sometimes spices, cold smoked with wood
Lardons: cured, unsmoked, cubed pork belly with higher fat content than pancetta
2) From the Back (Fatback):
Fatback bacon: Pure fat from the back of the pig, often with no skeletal muscle whatsover. Can be smoked, boiled, dry cured or brine cured.
Lardo: Italian fatback bacon, cut into thin strips and dry cured with rosemary and spices, and in its most famous version from Colonatta, cured in huge marble basins.
3) From Hind Leg (Ham):
Prosciutto: means “ham” in Italian. Prosciutto crudo is unsmoked, dry salt cured ham, served without further cooking. Prosciutto cotto is cooked ham.
Parma Ham: Prosciutto from Parma.
Speck: ham that is smoked, dry salt cured, spiced.
Jamon: from Spain, from white pig that is often cornfed, while prosciutto is from non-white pigs or wild boars. Jamon often features significantly darker meat than prosciutto.
4) Stuffed into a sausage:
Kulen kobasica: Pork sausage, mixed with spices, cured and smoked. This is like the Bosnian salchichon.
Izletnicka kobasica: pork sausage, mixed with spices especially garlic and paprika, fermented. This is closer in taste to a Genoa salami.
In the six weeks I have been in Europe, and the four total weeks I have been in Banka Luka, Bosnia, I’ve had prepackaged prsut, prsut cut from the deli, and prsut for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The funny thing is that maybe 75% of the time it has actually been real prosciutto. I’m certain that a few pizzas have included cooked pancetta. I had a crepe the other day that I swear had speck inside of it. One submarine sandwich I ate when visiting Banja Luka in March had strips of prosciutto mixed with Izletnicka kobasica. And at the Mercator supermarket this weekend, slabs of pancetta, prosciutto, and jamon were all located in the prosciutto section.
These could have all been honest mistakes. Maybe prsut is more of an umbrella term here. Maybe I shouldn’t make such a big deal drawing distinctions among products with such scant differences.
My point is this: when you order prsut here, it is like the most awesome version of roulette ever. No matter what, you are getting something incredible to eat, and the fact that all the above products come from the same magical animal is evidence that there is order and balance in the world.
Thanks for this enlightening explanation. Tonight I had some Pata Negra which was just over the top.
I feel like I have a cooking blog today. 😽