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Rows of Karst prosciutto

Photo: Luka Cjuha

Prosciutto (Slov. pršut), made and matured in the Karst region, is the heritage of rich experience, masterful skills, and age-old traditions of kind, hospitable, and generous locals.

The Karst landscape  is wrapped in dull brownish-grey. The Bora – the powerful north-easterly wind – howls ever more loudly through the cracks in the shutters. Strong hands place carefully selected legs of pork on the rough oak table. A thick layer of sea salt is shaken over them. The smell of meat in the air blends with the smell of the sea. The hams are then hung from wooden racks beneath the cool stone vaults. The meat slowly begins to dry in the sharp winter air. A little over three months later, careful hands place the indi-vidual hams between two boards, which are then weighted with large stones. In this way all the remaining excess water is squeezed out of them. Now the ageing process begins. The hams hang from their high racks, moving in the first blasts of the spring Bora as it races through the wide-open windows on the south side of the large drying room. For the next eight months the hams are left to dry, slowly and evenly. The previously tender red meat acquires a dark red-brown shade, a mouth-watering aroma and a full, mature flavour. Autumn returns to the land. The hams sway in the wind, ready to be eaten. This is prosciutto, locally known as pršut – a delicious symphony of meat, Bora and time.

Prosciutto was known long ago to the merchants and travellers who travelled between Vienna and Trieste. It was a prestigious meat whose secret lay in its rich aroma, intense colour and the succulent yet salty slices into which it was cut. Slovenia boasts three types of prosciutto (or pršut, to give it its local name): Vipava, Istria and Karst. The particularly high quality of the last of these – Karst ham or Kraški pršut – is proved by the fact that since 2012 it has held the EU's Protected Designation of Origin status. In 2013 the collective service mark Ročno rezan pršut (Hand-Cut Prosciutto) was registered at the Republic of Slovenia Intellectual Property Office. 

The Karst region, where these precious gifts of nature are slowly aged, is a place where the harmony of peace and beauty meets the smell of the sea and the force of the Bora. The people of the Karst prize the traditions and ancient customs that are passed from generation to generation in every house. No feast or holiday in the region is complete without pršut, and a plate of pršut on the table is the time-honoured way to welcome a guest.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan