Canning and preserving the season’s produce is a wonderful way to enjoy the harvest year-round. In Western Massachusetts, canning and food preservation has become a part of our cultural identity given the incredible amount of farms and local CSA’s that allow community members to purchase local food and support agriculture at a grassroots level. While it’s a part of our modern culture today, food preservation is actually an ancient practice rooted in our human history. In fact, one of the oldest forms of food preservation is the drying of food. In addition to drying, there are many methods of food preservation used throughout the world, including: freezing, fermenting, pickling, curing, jam and jelly, and canning.
Take prosciutto for example. You might have tried this Italian cured meat on a sandwich, on pizza or as a part of a cold cut platter. Prosciutto is made from ham, and the process to cure it is quite laborious. The most famous prosciutto is Prosciutto di Parma from Parma, Italy. The ham is not cooked like a baked ham in the oven. Instead, it is cured raw. The sodium from the salt helps to slow down bacteria growth and prevents the meat from going rancid. Curing meat has been around for thousands of years and is still a common practice today. In Parma, Italy, curing the leg of pork requires a lengthy salting process. The ham absorbs the salt, thereby drying it out and preserving it.
Watch this video to see how the ham is preserved to make prosciutto in Italy.
Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Nov/Dec), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.