To be considered a Parma ham, the hind thigh must come from a nine-month-old pig reared in one of the eleven regions established by the European Union and weighing no less than 150 kilograms. The animal must have been fed a special diet, including cereals, wheat and whey, derived from the Parmigiano Reggiano production process.
The thighs are marked with a certificate of authenticity before being sent to one of the traditional companies located in the area around Langhirano, in the province of Parma.
Salt is the only ingredient allowed when curing ham, while the use of chemicals is completely forbidden. Following the first salting, the Parma ham is stored in a chamber with 80% humidity, where it hangs for a week.
The ham is then salted again and hung in a drying room, where it loses a small percentage of its weight. After twenty days, the ham rests in a cold room for another two months before being washed to remove the salt and then hung on wooden frames.
After three months, it is smeared with lard, salt and pepper to prevent it from drying out and, after seven months, tested with a needle to determine its maturity. After twelve months and having lost a third of its weight, it can receive the brand of the ducal crown.