Both Italian and foreign pork legs are used for its production. In general, raw hams are used which undergo alterations during the seasoning or the legs of pigs slaughtered out of season, and which therefore could not be used to obtain raw hams.
The quality of cooked hams is linked to the raw material, the composition of the brine, the processing technology (temperature, times and cooking methods). The thighs are boned manually or mechanically. For high quality products, for which the addition of polyphosphates is not foreseen, the bones are removed while maintaining the integrity of the muscle masses, according to a technique called closed ham.
The bones are instead removed from the thighs by affecting the muscle masses in the production of medium quality hams, free of polyphosphates, or of low quality with the addition of polyphosphates and caseinates. The meats are subjected to dry salting or in brine or by injection into the blood vessels using a multi-needle syringe. Brine is an aqueous solution in which substances have been dissolved such as: salt (to give flavor to the product), natural flavors (generally rosemary, garlic, coriander, juniper, mace, to enhance the taste), glutamate (to enhance the flavor of the product), polyphosphates and caseinates (to retain water during cooking: without them the product would be stringy); nitrates and nitrites (inhibit the development of microorganisms, give the meat a pinkish color and improve the flavor of the product by avoiding that it takes on a bitter taste) and L-ascorbic acid and sugars (favor the action of other additives). The meats are then subjected to churning (vigorous and prolonged massage - from 30 to 70 hours) which favors the homogeneous distribution of the brine throughout the muscle mass and which facilitates, during cooking, the cohesion between the different muscles and pieces of meat.
The meats are then placed in special metal molds and pressed (with possible deaeration) which give the ham its final shape. The cooking takes place inside the metal molds in steam ovens or in water at 100 ° C, for a time equal to about 1 hour for each Kg of product. The ham then definitively assumes the shape of the mold, from which it will be extracted, repressed and cooled at 0 ° C for 24 hours. Once cooled it undergoes trimming and grooming, covered with an oily protective patina or paraffin, and sent for vacuum packaging and pasteurization.
From a commercial point of view, we distinguish: hams with rind and fat (generally without adding manually boned and boneless) and defatted hams (formed not by the whole thigh, but by several pieces of meat recompacted in a single form and generally added with polyphosphates; younger pig meat is used).