Will Work For Food
The idea of these sponsored "spokesperson" posts is, it seems, entirely appropriate. As any fule - and schoolboy - kno, the value of salt led to the word salary. The same applies, in a manner of speaking, to Prosciutto di San Daniele. While the preservation process involves salt, like Grana Padano Cheese (below), the ham itself was considered of such high value it was often used as payment, for barter and as a valuable gift. Hey, who wouldn't want to unwrap what's in the pic on Christmas morning?
The ten regions of Northern and Central Italy that produce the pigs is one of those happy places where the land suits pigs - and we all know how good happy pigs taste, right ham fans? - and the climate suits ham production. That was a discovery apparently made by the original Celtic settlers, and subsequently developed by the Romans in one of those happy co-productions. The San Daniele hills have reduced humidity, good aeration and a perfect climate in which to cure big lumps of the aformentioned happy pigs in salt. It then gets hung and cured for a minimum of 13 months. You can debate religion all you like, but if an area both suits pig contentment AND perfect preservation of meat, surely that's a higher power telling us not to be vegetarian?
Anyway, philosophical debate aside, the length of maturation and the taste means that Prosciutto di San Daniele was considered to be of high value. When the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli became a fief of the Patriarch, Earl-Bishop and Imperial Elector, they received "corvees" (unpaid labour) in the form of ham for centuries. In the Thirteenth Century, San Daniele evolved into a "free commune" which meant handling the intrusions of an expanding Venice. You can probably guess how... Indeed, intervals of relative calm were bought partly by sending the Doge - the Ventian protector of the day - a suitable number of hams.
There are many records of the hams playing a part in the country's political history. And now it's available in supermarket coolers. That's not quite as politically significant but makes it a lot easier for us proles to get hold of it...