Njegos Prsut: When a ham by any name is NOT the same
In the Balkans, people take their poetry and prosciutto seriously. So when we learned that there was a Montenegro prsut (prosciutto) named after a poet, we knew it had to be good.
We were right.
Njegoš prsut is named after Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. (Try to say that three times, fast.) Njegoš wrote famous epic poems, including The Mountain Wreath. For non-Balkanites, he’s what Shakespeare is to England. The Mountain Wreath is Balkan’s Hamlet. If I polled 10 Serbians on the street, I’d bet at least 7 of them could recite lines from his poems.
He wasn’t merely a poet, however. He was born into local royalty during the Ottoman hold over Montenegro. Eventually, he was made Bishop and helped form the various clans in Montenegro into a unified state. He’s seen as a benevolent king and has more likes on his Facebook page than I do. (Though so do most people…)
Best of all, he’s the namesake behind the smoked, dried ham pictured above. It’s sliced thin-to-medium thickness and doesn’t taste overly salty. The smoke flavor is there, but barely. It didn’t melt in our mouth but it did offer a delicate texture and hearty flavor. The secret is supposedly the grazing lands in Montenegro, though I’d imagine that many butchers have a special technique or two during the aging process. Whatever the secret is, it’s safe with Montenegrins, who assured (taunted?) us that we couldn’t get this kind of prsut anywhere else. Oh well. Njegos’ words may roll off the toungue, but his prsut rolls right on in.
UPDATE: a kind reader told me the following: It’s not named after (Petar II Petrović) Njegoš, it’s named after a village Njeguši (after which is Njegoš dynasty named too), nearby Cetinje, Montenegro. Njeguški pršut, not Njegošev pršut.
Darn it.I thought our waiter told us that it was named after the King, not the King’s hometown. I’m keeping the post though since I have more to say about Njegos tomorrow. As always, thanks for clarifying!