Published On: Wed, Mar 25th, 2015

Parma Ham Review

It’s among the most prized of sliced, cured meats in the world. Parma ham is always a delight, but how do pre-sliced supermarket-packaged hams fare? Italia! investigates…

Truth be told, if you want the very best Parma ham then you’re likely going to find it on the bone, sliced to order, at a local deli or online shop. Nothing quite beats a freshly-cut, cured prosciutto. But it’s often that we’re simply too busy, or live too far away from a dedicated deli, to make such purchases practical. And so we turn to the supermarkets to procure our prosciutto di Parma. Thankfully, over the years the quality of pre-packed Parma ham has increased significantly. You can now find hams on sale on the high street that have spent many months curing and improving in both flavour and texture.
Supermarket-bought Parma ham is ideal if you intend to use it to cook with – to wrap around a chicken breast, for instance, or maybe a loin of monkfish – but the higher-quality (and especially the aged) hams from well-known suppliers give even freshly-sliced prosciutto a run for its money. Remember, the older the better, and don’t judge a ham by its colour. Pale pink hams can be every bit as good as ones with a deeper pink-to-red tinge.

 

Editor’s Choice

22 month-Aged by Fratelli Tanzi SPAM&S22m Parma ham
From Marks & Spencers 
Price £4.00 for six slices

Cured with just sea salt for a minimum of 22 months, this Parma ham from Marks & Spencer is the pinnacle of pre-sliced and packaged prosciutto. It’s pale in colour, but has an even, dry texture like those of the best hams sliced directly off the bone. Indeed, it’s dry enough to not require leaves of separating plastic, as is usually the case. Salty yet meaty, to taste it melts in the mouth and the fat at the edge is both satisfying and moreish. This is most definitely the packaged ham to beat and we’d happily present this at our dinner table.

VERDICT *****

Salty and succulent, this lovely, dry ham demonstrates that pre-packaged prosciutto di Parma can be as good as the ‘real deal’ from your local deli.

 

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18 Month-AGED by Giuseppe Citterio SPACo-op Parma ham
From The Co-operative Food
Price £2.39 for five slices

Although this Parma ham tasted pretty good – a balanced saltiness and really rather sweet – we were put off by the texture and a distinct chewiness to the meat that meant it lingering too long in the mouth. It could have been because the pack we’d bought had very little fat, which is an essential element to the enjoyment of a good prosciutto di Parma.

VERDICT **

This ham tasted okay, but was too chewy and the texture too firm.

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18 month-aged by Agricola tre Valli SOC. COOP. Morrisons Parma ham
From Morrisons
Price £2.19 for six slices

The first thing that struck us about the Parma ham from Morrisons was the amount of fat it contained. This is a good thing, in our book, as the fat adds to the flavour and the texture. But while it excelled in the latter, with its melt-in-the-mouth quality, it lacked in the former. Although it had a pleasant saltiness it lacked meatiness. Good value for money however.

VERDICT ***

Great texture and nice levels of fat but lacking in flavour. Good, but not great.

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14 Month-AGed confezionato da fratelliM&S14m Parma ham
From Marks & Spencers
Price £3.00 for eight slices

The second ham from M&S, this 14 month-aged example comes from the same producer as this month’s Buy Italia! winner. Believe us, for the difference in price, there’s a gulf in quality. Although fairly dry, this younger ham, though nicely cut through with fat, tastes nowhere near as good as the 22-month offering. Fine for wrapping and cooking, but not to eat on its own.

VERDICT **

A lesson learned: spend a little more in M&S and enjoy the superior, older ham.

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14 month-aged by CIM Alimentari SPATescoF14m Parma ham
From Tesco
Price £2.65 for six slices

Pale and very thinly-sliced, this Parma ham from Tesco’s Finest range had a very pleasant freshness to it. Neither too dry nor too moist, it melts well in the mouth, leaving a lingering saltiness but also a fantastic fresh meat taste that is both sweet and delicious. One wonders just how good this would be if it were left to cure for another year or so.

VERDICT ****

Fresh-tasting and yet salty and sweet, this Parma ham is up there with the best.

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4 Month-Aged Confezionato da fumagalli alimentri SPAWaitrose14m Parma ham
From Waitrose
Price £2.99 for seven slices

This is a fantastically well-balanced ham. A pleasing marbeling of fat runs through each slice, though it’s slightly ‘wetter’ than ‘dry’ and therefore is slightly less appealing in the mouth than this month’s winner. It tastes good; not too sweet, not too salty, and would work very well served as a starter with some mozzarella.

VERDICT ****

Great balance of salty and sweet flavours but perhaps a little wet for our taste.

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24 Month-Aged by Giuseppe Citterio SPASains24m Parma ham
From Sainsbury’s
Price £4.00 for five slices

An extra year of curing makes a whole load of difference, as this ham from Sainbury’s demonstrates. The same producer supplies the 14 month-aged ham to the Co-operative, but there is a big difference in flavour, texture and quality. The 22-month ham from M&S is this month’s winner, but this example really isn’t that far off. Impressive!

VERDICT *****

A worthy runner-up, this is a great Parma ham and worth the extra pound.

 

 

 

 

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