After the ham is washed, it is stored at temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit for several weeks, during which time the residual salt that is concentrated in the outer part of the meat begins to penetrate into the flesh through a process called equalization. The ham is then hung to age for anywhere from three months to two years, during which time it loses more moisture. (A dry-cured ham will ultimately shed between 18 and 36 percent of its original weight.) Its flavor intensifies, and the salinity breaks down the meat's protein filaments, lending raw dry-cured flesh its translucence and dense yet tender texture. Meanwhile, enzymes break down flavorless proteins into savory amino acids, such as glutamate, which impart a luscious, umami flavor. In many parts of the world—Germany, eastern Europe, and much of the U.S.—another step is added: smoking, which gives the ham more flavor, kills microbes, and repels insects. Many producers also add small amounts of nitrates and nitrites as preservatives.