PDO Culatello di Zibello is a cold cut from the Parma province, along the banks of the river Po, an area that enjoys a cold-wet climate in winter but is hot in summer, a crucial factor for the ageing of this charcuterie.
The origins of PDO Culatello di Zibello are most likely tied to peasant culture in the Parma area. The first time this delicacy was officially mentioned was in a document written by the Parma city hall dating back to 1735; in the 19th century, it was cited on a number of occasions by authors including Gabriele D'Annunzio, and the much-loved composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Today, culatello is a favourite amongst some of the biggest international names, such as the Prince of Wales and French chef Alain Ducasse.
When it comes to making culatello salami, the meat used is pork. More specifically, this particular cold cut is made from strips of muscle from the rear and inner thigh and is produced in the towns of Busseto, Polesine Parmense, Zibello, Soragna, Roccabianca, San Secondo, Sissa and Colorno in the Parma province. The raw ingredient itself, however, comes from pigs that were born, raised and butchered in the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions.
The end result is a pear-shaped cold cut with a sweet, mild flavour which is obtained from a process that divided up into various stages which involve curing with salt, pepper and garlic, casing, binding and finally ageing for at least 10 months.
Today, the town of Zibello pays tribute to its culatello with the Festa del Culatello di Zibello festival, which puts on a programme of events, including opportunities to sample dishes showcasing this much-loved cold cut; to learn even more about this delicacy, why not visit the Museo del Culatello del Masalén museum.
The flavour of PDO Culatello di Zibello is best enjoyed by itself, simply cut into thin slices. But there are a few things to bear in mind when preparing your culatello: before you eat it, make sure you remove the twine, scrub it under running water and leave it to soak for two to three days in red or white wine. The skin can then be removed, and the salami is ready to be enjoyed.