Prague ham, a traditional Czech delicacy, has recently been added to the EU list of ‘traditional specialities guaranteed.’ The boneless pork ham, which is mildly smoked after being stewed, has been produced in the Czech lands since 1860s.
Pražská šunka or Prague ham was first produced in the year 1870 by butcher František Zvěřina. Forty years later, Antonín Chmel from Prague’s Zvonařka industrialised the production of Prague ham and started exporting it all over the world.
Today, Prague ham is produced by several companies in the Czech Republic, including the Prague-based company Le&Co. Petr Korejs, the company’s quality manager, explained to Radio Prague what makes the product so unique:
“Prague ham is something special because it has been produced in the same way for centuries. The roots of the original recipe go back to the mid-19th century.
“Today, the art is to maintain the original recipe, but at the same time adapt the production to modern standards.”
Prague ham is produced from boneless pork hides which are brine-cured, stewed and mildly beech wood-smoked. The finished product has a typical oval shape and a decorative surface coating, consisting of a thin layer of pork fat or fat and skin.
Petr Korejs of Le&Co butchers outlines the traditional process of Prague ham production:
“In the past, the pork hides were placed in large oak tubs to ripen in brine for at least two weeks. Today, this is no longer possible, because the wooden pans are banned in butchery for hygienic reasons.
“Instead we are using modern equipment, which enables us to reduce the ripening process to 24 hours.”
Apart from Prague ham, four other traditional Czech and salamis and sausages, including Lovecký salám, Liptovský salám, Špekáčky and Spišské párky have already been inscribed on the EU list of ‘traditional specialities guaranteed.’
As of this February, every butcher in the world has to produce Prague ham according to the traditional recipe, if they want to sell it under the original name. Petr Korejs says the Prague-based Le&Co butchers have definitely welcomed the decision:
“We have of course welcomed the listing, because it makes Prague ham more interesting for our business partners abroad. We’ll see what the future holds, but it’s definitely a good step for promoting the popularity of Prague ham in the world.”