Can you imagine a hairdresser cutting your hair with a pair of garden shears? A conductor guiding an orchestra with a spatula? A baker kneading bread dough with a concrete mixer? Unthinkable, right?
Then why shouldn’t it matter what kind of knife we use for slicing prosciutto?
A superb prosciutto requires a precise cutting tool and a certain amount of theatricality in slicing and serving, so a long, thin slicer, resembling a real Japanese katana, is the right choice for the job.
The gastronomic regions known for cured meats possess a great variety of natural conditions, which influence the texture, smell, color and taste of prosciutto. Just as the world of prosciutto is rich and varied, so too are prosciutto knives, depending on the cutting characteristics of the meat. Only a properly cut and shaped slice of prosciutto allows the perfect flavor to develop.
Although it can be sliced by machine, tradition dictates hand-cutting, which is renowned worldwide as an art in itself. The best prosciutto/jamón cutters enjoy star status in the gastronomic world, as properly cut slices enhance the flavor of the meat and offer a complete sensory experience.
Florencio Sanchidrián is a professional ham slicer (cortador de jamón) and gets paid up to $4,000 to slice a single leg. He says he has devoted his body and soul to his craft.
He has cut prosciutto (spa. jamón) for everyone, from Barack Obama to the King of Spain, and says the secret of his success is knowing the product "like the back of his hand".
Prosciutto and Japanese knives
Prosciutto manufacturing is a complex process, closely linked to the local environment and industry-specific technology, which ensures its quality and characteristic aroma.
The same can be said of Japanese knives. It takes a master blacksmith to turn a piece of steel into a product that has the best cross-section of qualities, such as hardness, ability to maintain sharpness, ease of maintenance, and graininess of the steel, depending on the intended use. Japanese blacksmiths are by far the best in the world combining their centuries-long tradition of forging, the acquired knowledge, and superior steel.
That’s why there was no doubt about where we would make the prosciutto knife - in Japan. Thanks to its geographical location and natural resources, Seki has been a knife-forging hub for more than 800 years and is known worldwide as the home of the modern Japanese knife industry. Blacksmiths have successfully translated the ancient skill of forging katanas into kitchen knives.
With the development of the shape and our choice of steel for Burja knife, we merged the rich culinary heritage of prosciutto manufacturing (and curing) with Japanese knife forging technology. The best of both worlds! The result of years of research into the most suitable materials, blade geometry, optimum flexibility, and handle grip, is the first Japanese prosciutto knife, which we have named Burja.
Burja (slo), bura (hr), bora (it), borea (lat), north wind (ang) is the cold, dry, strong, and gusty northeast wind without which no prosciutto would ever be produced, no matter where in the world it is dried.
Burja - the evolution
Generally speaking, a prosciutto knife should be flexible enough to allow the cutter to position the arm at the right angle, have a slightly concave blade geometry to glide smoothly through the meat, and have a thin spine to prevent the prosciutto sticking to the blade. The long blade allows the meat to be cut with as few strokes as possible, avoiding sawing marks on the cut surface of the food.
We initially designed Burja as a knife for different types of prosciutto but intended it to also be used as a (longer) universal slicer suitable for other dried meats, raw and roasted meats, and fish preparation. Over time, we found that the flexibility of the blade did not suit all types of prosciutto, especially the firmer types, that had been aged longer. Based on testing and feedback from professional ham manufacturers and cutters, we eventually developed three completely different Burja knives.
When creating the first version of Burja, we spent quite some time looking for suitable steel which would be sufficiently flexible but still hard enough to provide excellent long-lasting Japanese sharpness.
With Burja no. 2 and 3 we decided on SG2 and ZDP-189 powder steels, as there is no need for such high blade flexibility with firmer and denser hams.
Aichi Steel Burja
The Aichi steel Burja is suitable for the softest prosciutto because it has the most flexible blade and is made from the softest steel with a (still high!) hardness of 58 HRC. It is most recommended for use with tender cured meats from Italian prosciutto regions such as Parma and San Daniele. It is also exceptional for slicing cooked ham and less cured meats.
Recommended for: Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Culatello di Zibello, Spanish Jamón Serrano, and similar.
The most versatile Burja is the SG2 Burja. It has an optimal ratio between the hardness of the steel and the flexibility of the blade, which helps the cutting of even slices of prosciutto that is tougher (drier) on one side and more delicate on the other. It is suitable for all kinds of ham and also for preparing thin slices of sashimi.
Recommended for: Jamón Ibérico, Jamón ibérico de bellota, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Jambon de Bayonne, and similar.
ZDP-189 Burja is the answer to the challenge of firmer prosciuttos that had been aged for a longer time. ZDP-189 steel is our flagship - it's the same steel used for our first exclusive knife, which we developed in collaboration with a renowned chef and talented Japanese blacksmiths.
For almost a decade, the ZDP-189 Bunka Black has been our best-selling knife, unbeatable in its specifications.
The ZDP-189 Burja has an extremely hard (and not as flexible as the previous two) blade. The steel is hardened to an incredible 65-67 HRC, affording the blade unbeatable sharpness and extremely long edge retention. This knife shines at slicing the most dry-aged prosciutto, which some consider to be the best - the firmest include Spanish, Karst, and Istrian.
Recommended for: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Presunto, Jabugo, Kraški pršut, and similar.