If Wilhelm Van Berkel never invented the meat slicer, would we still have prosciutto?
Berkel invented the meat slicer in Holland in 1898, and its design was so revolutionary that it quickly carried across the globe. The invention of the slicer, along with the use of refrigeration for transportation and storage, helped create a new demand for ‘store-bought’ products like deli meats and cheeses. These items were considered luxury items, and in the beginning were only available to those of a higher social class.
Prosciutto crudo di Parma, or Parma ham comes from the Parma region of Italy and is best known for its buttery texture that melts in your mouth. This region is also known for its Parmesan cheese, and the pigs that are raised here are often fed Parmigiano-Reggiano, giving the meat a slightly nutty flavor.
Parma ham served with melon makes a great antipasto. It can be cooked with spring vegetables like asparagus and peas, served in sandwiches and panini or used for stuffing other meats, like veal.
Parma ham is sticky by nature and requires a very sharp knife, or a slicer in order to cut the paper-thin slices. Even if Berkel hadn’t invented the slicer, the world would still have prosciutto, but his invention made slicing faster and more accessible to the masses. For that, I am grateful.
Check out EMILIOMITI’s selection of antique Berkel slicers here.