Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prosciutto Cotto / Spalla Cotta

Prosciutto cotto is just an Italian cooked ham. Not really all that different from good American cooked hams, except maybe for the spicing. Technically, what I made here wasn’t a prosciutto cotto, as I didn’t use a prosciutto, I used a “spalla” or shoulder. No matter, this same method applies to both. I used a shoulder because that’s what was available at the market, and because a whole cooked deboned ham would have been a little unwieldy.
The method I used was developed by a fellow on which involved pumping the meat with 10% of its weight with a brine and also adding a surface rub. The spices I used came from another fellow with a bed and breakfast in Italy. I modified the quantities I used to more suit my tastes.

Screen shot 2011-11-27 at 3.09.50 PM

The reason I chose to both inject and rub was to make sure that the whole muscle reached salt and cure equilibrium quickly. It’s also a way to make sure that there are no uncured spots where the meat might be touching the bag or other surfaces as it floats in a brine.
If you run the numbers I've listed above, using the brine at 10% of the meat weight, and the amount of rub listed above for each kilo of meat, you end up with a product with 155PPM of nitrites (Thanks to reader Yeo for catching my error, previously listing the PPM at 175), 3% salt and 1.6% sugar.

The formula for calculating the PPM of added product in a pumped item is:

((grams of ingredient) * % pump * 1000000) / grams of pickle = PPM

Using that formula correctly the PPM of nitrite added to the ham is in fact about 72.

((14.53g cure #1 * 6.25% nitrite in cure)) * 10% pump * 1000000) / 1250 (pickle weight including water, salt, sugar, cure) = 72

The calculation for the PPM added by the dry rub is as follows:

((grams of cure mix)*(% nitrite in mix)*1000000 / weight of meat) = PPM

I would not include the additional 10% pumped in the weight of the meat, so the PPM added by the dry cure would be (1.34*6.25%*1000000)/1000 = 84PPM

That would give a total of 84+72 = 155PPM nitrite.

20110821-IMG_4836 Here is the brine “tea” I made. I heated 1 liter of water, added the salt, sugar and cure, then the spices, brought it to a simmer, turned it off and left it covered for the spices to steep. It was then filtered and used for injection.
20110821-IMG_4837 I started with a whole picnic shoulder. You can see I like to lay out my cutting path with toothpicks. I poke toothpicks following the bone, so I know the general area where to cut.
20110821-IMG_4838 The leg split open and bone removed.
20110821-IMG_4842 The leg flipped over. I cut off the ankle piece to give it a more even thickness and width.
20110821-IMG_4843 Front side of the deboned leg. Leave the skin on there!
20110821-IMG_4844 I injected 10% of the deboned leg weight with the brine tea from above. I did this on a plate so I could collect any brine that squirted out and put it in the bag with the leg. I then rubbed the dry rub all over the meat surface as well as a little on the skin.
I then put it in a vacuum bag and took out most of the air and sealed.
20110829-IMG_4882 14 days later the product was opened and rinsed. It’s now ready to be cooked


Traditionally prosciutto cotto is cooked in metal pots which have spring loaded tops to keep the ham compressed as they’re cooked in the oven, taking on a nice “hamly” shape. Since I didn’t have one of those pans, I tied the leg up super tight instead……..
20110829-IMG_4886 And vacuum packed it so it could be cooked in a water bath for 9 hours at 155 deg. F.
20110830-IMG_4887 9 hours later, and an overnight stay in the fridge to let everything set up and the product is ready!
20110830-IMG_4890 Here’s the spalla cotta! It’s quite a bit fattier than a prosciutto cotto as there is more fat in the shoulder than the ham. It’s nice to see no uncured areas.
20110903-IMG_4893 Slice it thin (or thick) and you’ll have some of the best “ham” you’ve ever tasted. Fantastic stuff!
This is a definite winner. I’d make this again in a minute, and in fact I will for sure. I’ll vary up the spices a little even though it’s pretty perfect as it is!


Anonymous said...

Nice, and I can actually follow this one as I do have a water bath. Thanks for all your posts - they're fascinating even to a layman.

Anonymous said...

Having looked at this for a couple minutes, you only inject about half a cup of brine correct? Or is my math off? How did you choose to disburse the brine? What did you do with the rest of the brine? Great post by the way. Love your site.

Leif said...

This looks just great; how long do you think this ham will last in fridge?

Leif said...

Have you tried to cold smoke this type ham, I would think it should be very good, like Black Forest ham? How long do you think it should smoked for?

Jasonmolinari said...

How much brine you use depends on the weight of the meat. 1/2 cup would be about 225g, which would be enough for a 2.25KG piece of meat. I inject the brine as evenly as possible maybe focusing a little more in the thicker areas. It'll distribute over the course of the 2 weeks. I threw the rest of the brine out.

Leif: The ham will last a couple weeks in the fridge, then it starts getting slimy and smelling a little sour. I think smoking it would be a fantastic idea.
Thinking about it from a food safety perspective i'm thinking i'd hot smoke it before rolling it until the internal temperature is about 130, then roll, bag and put in the water bath for 5 or 6 hours.

Leif said...

Thank you for your quick replies, I will go ahed and hot-smoke the first ham and see how it works.
Will let you know how it turns out.

E. Nassar said...

Very nice work Jason. I definitly wish this was posted a month or so ago. I could've used it for my Thanksgiving Day ham :-).

FrankieM said...

Awesome. Like a fine mosaic...Thanks to all the help from you and Scott over the years, I’ve gotten my skills up. Im sure you have enough blogs to follow. I would love any criticisms or comments on my Your the man.

Avi said...

Hello Jason,

Had a question regarding collagen casings: It is my first time using a collagen casing - Sausage Maker has a new coil type - for fermenting sausage. Does it work the same way as a natural casing for fermented sausages?
Thank you for your posts

Jasonmolinari said...

Avi, i don't know what coil type is, but collagen casings work well for fermented sausages. If they are thick, soak them before use to soften them.

Avi said...

Thank Jason,

Coil type is a preshaped collagen casing for making ring sausages. These simulate beef rounds.
Thanks again.

SS Yeo said...

Hello Jason,
Was looking at your dry cure rub, you did not mention if you used cure #1 or cure #2 ? From Oddley's recipe in he used a mixture of saltpetre and cure #1..I was wondering if cure#2 was already such a mixture ( ie mixed Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite ) and we could replace it directly.. Doing this in Singapore ( tried your pancetta and it turned out great)

Hope you can help


Jasonmolinari said...

Yeo, thanks for catching the error. The cure in the rub is Cure #1.

I did not use cure #2 b/c this product isn't undergoing a long drying phase.

SS Yeo said...

Hello Jason,
Thanks for the clarification. Will be trying this one out over the weekend.

cheers and have a Happy New Year


SS Yeo said...

Hello Jason...once more,
I'm doing my sums before I plunge into the cure
Assuming 1000g of meat

For Injection Brine

1000g water + 150g Salt + 85g Sugar + 14.53g Cure#1 + misc spice = 1250g total solution

This contains 14.53 * 6.25% = 0.908 g of Sodium Nitrite.

We use 100g of this for 1000g of meat => we end up with 0.07264g of Sodium Nitrite being pump (10% pump) into the meat directly.

This works out to be 66 ppm

------- x 1000000 = 66 ppm
1100 ( 1000 g meat + 100g pump brine)

Add to this we dry rub 23 g of the dry portion containing 1.34g of Cure #1 which works out to contain 0.08375 g of Sodium Nitrite added to 1100 g meat + 23 g of dry rub = 1123g of meat + dry rub.

This adds to 74.5 ppm of Sodium Nitrite

This makes a grand total of 140 ppm of Sodium Nitrite in your recipe.

I think you may have omitted the the weight of the added compounds in your calculation of 175 ppm.

Can you check if my calculations are correct. Is 140 ppm sufficient?

sorry to bother you like this but doing this the first time and reading all the stuff is getting me more nervous.




Assume 6.25% Sodium Nitrite content in Cure #1

Jasonmolinari said...

Yeo, i do believe you are correct! The formuala for calculating the PPM of added product in a pumped item is:

((grams of ingredient) * % pump * 1000000) / grams of pickle = PPM

Using that, you are correct, i did not include the added pickle ingredients in my calculation. Using that formula correctly the PPM of nitrite added to the ham is in fact about 72.

(0.908g nitrite) * 10% pump * 1000000) / 1250 (pickle weight including salt, sugar, cure) = 72

The calculation for the PPM added by the dry rub is as follows:

((grams of cure mix)*(% nitrite in mix)*1000000 / weight of meat) = PPM

I would not include the additional 10% pumped in the weight of the meat, so the PPM added by the dry cure would be (1.34*6.25%*1000000)/1000 = 84PPM

That would give a total of 84+72 = 155PPM nitrite.

Even if you did include the pumped weight in the calculation, your PPM would be 76, for a total of 148.

155 or 148 i would consider essentially identical, since i'm sure my scale is less accurate than that in weighing my cure.

Regulations require a minimum of 120PPM for a refrigerated product, and a FDA allow a maximum of 200PPM in a pumped product, and the EU allows 150PPM.

So either way, 140 would be safe.

And thank you for catching my errors! I will correct right away.

Leif said...

Hello again Jason,
I am late in my follow-up, but here goes. I had problems with my hot-smoker so I ended up cold-smoking the ham for 24 hours. I then cooked it for 12 hours at 65C.
It tasted very good, but I should have cooked it for only 8-9 hours or reduced the temp to 60-62C as it was a little dry. We finished all 3.5KG over Christmas and everyone loved it.
Thank you for your guidance,

Jasonmolinari said...

Glad to hear it worked out well Leif!

Carl M. said...

Hey Jason, sorry to be a stranger - been remodeling this damn house we bought -

Anyway, the Serrano style hams I've been making (with local acorn fed piggies) have been turning out fantastic, but they are a LOT of work (months) to cure & equalize the salt before hanging so they: a) do not rot & b) are not too I'm trying an experiment in curing...

I bought a whole commercially smoked & cured 18 pound ham, covered all of the exposed meat with lard & hung it in the curing chamber - simple - Question now is: will a year of hanging over come the water retentive properties of the Sodium Phosphate & Erythorbate they pump these thing full of ...Heresy I know & the quality of the pork can't but as good as acorn fed but WTH? Will let you know in a year....

Jasonmolinari said...

Hey Carl...seems like a good question...what is the goal? To further age the ham for better flavor?

MDmobile said...

Hi Jason. I would like to try making the prosciutto cotto. However, I only have cure #2. Since the only difference between #1 and #2 is the extra 1% sodium nitrate, do you think I can use #2 for cooked meat?
P.D: It would be cool to see a corned meat or pastrami recipe in your blog!

carl M. said...

Hi Jason, the goal is to remove the excess water they pump these hams full of (and to concentrate the flavor) & hopefully, (my chamber full of wonderful salami enzymes) will help add a little more delicacy to the ham, over time.

Jasonmolinari said...

MDmobile, cure #2 has i believe 3.6% nitrates. Some would argue that eating nitrates is potentially bad for you, and should be avoided.
I'll let you do the research and make your own decision.

Adriana said...

Hi Jason, after curing for 14 days, you say it's not ready to be cooked. Is that because it still needs to be tied or is it because it needs a "resting" phase in the fridge (like a prosciutto would)?

Adriana said...

One more thing. What exactly is a water bath?

Jasonmolinari said...

Whoops! Adriana...that's supposed to say "now" instead of "not".

thanks for catching that. I will correct it.

Jasonmolinari said...

adriana, the water bath is literally a large tub of water that has a thermal controller to keep it at an accurate temperature.
You can try cooking this covered in foil in an oven at about 200 deg. and monitor the internal temperature.

Adriana said...

Hi Jason,
Is it possible to use a brine only method to cure a ham for a prosciutto cotto? If so, what would be the percentage of nitrite in the brine?

Jasonmolinari said...

Adriana, a brine without injection? I think it is possible, but i don't have the information regarding brine concentrations and times. You'll have to do some research.

I don't personally like the idea of relying only on osmosis for prosciutto cotto, instead of injecting.

Rafael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks for the details Rafael!

Rafael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rafael said...


I made the prosciutto before reading this blog. I´m here to learn too.
This post was modified from a previous deleted post to adjust the quantities that were wrong, since I use an excel table I´ve made for this purpose. I can send it if someone wants it, but the translation may not be so good.

The brine would be (salt at 55 degree and cure adjusted to get a PPM of 155 after 10% brine absorbed - to the weight of the meat):

Meat: the total weight must be known.
Water: 50% of the weight of the meat
Cure #1: 2,48% of the weight of the water (I did not find it here in Brazil, so I had to use cure #2 - it is not so bad as it is said - you may research it).
Salt: 14,52% of the weight of the water (if you want saltier with brine at 60 degrees, use 15,84%, and if brine at 50 degree use 13,2%) MINUS 6,25% of the weight of the cure #1 (or Minus 10% of the weight of the cure #2 if it is used instead of cure #1)
Sugar (i use corn syrup): 2% in relation to the weight of the meat (max would be 3% - to use more is not recommended, since it could ferment and spoil the brine).
Other spices: any amount. Do not use fresh ingredients, since they can spoil the brine.

I did not heat the brine, but next time I´ll try do do it, so the spices get more in the meat (it was almost no spice taste in the prosciutto I´ve made), but I´ll mix the cure after it has cooled down, to guarantee it will work.

You MUST cool down the brine to 40F (4,4C) before placing the meat in it. Use a small plastic container – so that the brine cover all the meat - and keep it in the refrigerator to keep at the right temperature (around 40F). Don´t let the temperature go below 38F (3,3C), because the cure won´t work at so low temperatures. The meat must be covered by the brine – use a plate to put it down so it will not float. You must flip the meat everyday and mix the brine at 3 days intervals.

Weight it everyday until the weight of the meat is the original weight plus 10%. That would be about 350-500g of meat per day in brine for smaller cuts and 4-6 days per kg of meat for larger cuts, as I´ve read. It is better to let it longer, so the brine can get to the center of the meat. If after you have cooked it, the center is gray, it is because the brine did not get in there. The longer in the brine, the saltier it gets (as I´ve read, but I don´t really believe it).

The meat is removed from the brine, rinsed off, drained and placed in water at about 160F (74C). It is held there until the internal temperature reaches more than 145F (62,8C – FDA recommendation) and bellow 158F (70C) on a meat thermometer – the temperature will increase about 2 degrees after it is removed from the water. After cooking, the ham is chilled in cold water for about 30 minutes and then put in the fridge overnight. I did not use a vacuum bag. I´ve used a large container with water over the stove, at very low fire, so the temperature stayed around 160F.
After that, if it is cold smoked the next day, tastes even better.

Adriana said...

Hi Jason, I baked the ham and had somewhat of a texture problem, when I sliced it, it fell apart. Could it be that it was overbaked, or perhaps the temp was too high? Will try boiling it.

Jasonmolinari said...

Adriana, baking shouldn;t be the problem. Industrially the hams are cooked in high humidity ovens. I'm guessing you cooked it too long or at too high a temperature.
Cook it in a very low oven (maybe 200 or 225) for a long time. Put some pans of water in there to keep the oven moist.
Take it out at about 150-160 internal meat temp.

Adriana said...

Got it. Oven was dry and temp was probably too high. Will try again. Do you think the same deboned spalla would do for speck?

Adriana said...

Hi Jason, got the texture right this time, baked it in a very humid oven. The problem I'm having is that even after putting the ham in a net, there is a "hole" in the middle, where the bone used to be. And when I slice it, it falls apart. Do you think pressing it before and after baking solves this issue? thanks

Jasonmolinari said...

adriana, i think pressing after cooking might help bind the protein.
also, sprinkle some gelatin in the area where the bone was, it should help everything stick together a little better.

EnriqueB said...

Hi Jason, you don't mention flipping the meat. Is it necessary to flip it every few days during the refrigeration period, or could I just leave it in the fridge curing while I'm on holidays? Thanks in advance for your answer!!

Jasonmolinari said...

I didn't worry much about flipping it because it was vacuum packed. If it weren't i would flip it to make sure the brine stays in contact with all parts.

EnriqueB said...

Many thanks for your answer, Jason. I will vacuum pack it, and tell the person who will come to flower the plants to flip it once a week.

Troelso said...

thx for posting!

Philip Favia said...

the prosciutto cotto look very good do you brine before vacuum pack it,or just vacuum it, also the salt % is very high could it be cut down to standard 2-3% per kilo of meat,added to 1 liter of water???
thank yopu

Jasonmolinari said...

Philip, i don't brine, i inject and rub, please read the post, it's all detailed there.
Since the meat is injected with only 10% of its weight, the brine has to be concentrated.
Please read the math, it's all detailed in there.

Unknown said...

I live in Denmark and the curling salt available to me has salt and 0,6% sodium nitrite. Can you help me figure out how much to use to replace cure # 1 in the recepie?

Jez Poyser said...

Hi Jason,

Not sure if you still monitor these comments!

I was just reading this with interest.

I sell porchetta which I spit roast on a rotisserie and have been searching for some way of selling the legs. This seems like a good option. Can you see any problem with following the above procedure and then placing on a spit and roasting until cooked(as opposed to boiling)?

Thanks mate,
See you on the SD page.

Administradores said...

Can somebody tell me what ingredient is cure exactly, and were can I find it?


Jasonmolinari said...

Cure #1 is salt and sodium nitrite.
See here:

you can find it at sausage making shops. Depends where in the world you are.