Ham production is a traditional and economically
vital activity in many parts of Europe, particularly in some of
the more challenged regions of the Iberian peninsula. Ham curing
involves the successive exposure of ham to high humidity, then high
heat, then relatively low heat over the course of two to three years.
Unfortunately, these same conditions are well suited to the growth
of particular types of fungi and the tiny spider-like acarids or
mites that eat them.
This project's intended goal was the development
of new curing methods to prevent the infestation of ham by parasites
during the curing process, and while it was ultimately unable to
do so, important new knowledge was gained through the manipulation
of curing conditions about the proliferation and behaviour of fungi
and the accompanying mites. Mites were seen to burrow into and actually
eat the ham itself when external conditions became unfavourable.
Also, a new species of mite was identified.
This project was a first attempt at enhancing
the ham curing process through a scientific approach and as such
is an important contribution to small local European economies where
ham production plays an important role.