- Gordon Dumoulin
1,000 Years Cured Ham Culture in China
Long before Italians were producing prosciutto and the Spanish their jamón Iberico, the Chinese were making their own cured of ham in the small city of Jinhua in Zhejiang Province, JINHUA HAM (金華火腿).
Stronger in taste and smell than prosciutto and jamón serrano, Jinhua ham is traditionally derived from a local breed of pig called liangtouwu (literally translates as "two heads black" for its distinctive blackened head and rear), which has been around for about 1,600 years. Known also as "panda pig" for its (quite adorable) black and white patterns, it is prized for its naturally small size and high fat content. A pig's thigh is marinated in salt for up to two months in winter. The salt is eventually washed off and then the leg is hung up to dry for four to five days. After that, it is left during springtime in a low-temperature room to naturally ferment for around five to eight months and be ready for wintertime.
Marco Polo allegedly brought ham-making techniques from Jinhua to Europe, and many of today's processing technologies for dry-cured hams are evolved from the techniques from this modest Chinese city.
Salt-cured Chinese hams have been in production since the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). First records appeared in the book Supplement to Chinese Materia Medica by Tang Dynasty doctor Chen Zangqi, who claimed ham from Jinhua was the best.
Pork legs were commonly salted by soldiers in Jinhua to take on long journeys during wartime, and it was imperial scholar Zong Ze who introduced it to Song Dynasty Emperor Gaozong. Gaozong was so amazed with the ham’s intense flavour and red colour he named it huo tui, or ‘fire leg’.
Source : munchies.vice.com