Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Italian Days Food Experience Pt 2: Bologna, Italy

After hitting up the aceto balsamico villa, we headed to a Prosciutto di Parma factory. Now those, who are sensitive to seeing raw'ish meat, might want to skip ahead to the end.

For those of you sticking around, here's a photo from a 2 lane town road.  Yes, even here in the middle of D.O.P. certified food production, there's a sign from McDonald's.

Anyways, we pull up to what looks like a brick house in a completely residential area.

Inside, however, was all business.

Prosciutto di Parma also is governed by D.O.P. rules.  The  D.O.P. specify that the pigs must be Italian-born, contain a particular fat content, be of a certain age and weight, and have had been fed with a controlled diet of whey, cereals and grains.

Like in the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory, the hams that make the cut are marked.  Here are some hams very early in the curing process that have been marked.

There are a number of steps to the curing process, of which you can read a summary to here.  The hams must be cured for at least 1 year, but may be cured longer for a stronger flavor.

Throughout the curing process, the hams shrink in weight and also develop a harden shell on the outside.  Punch one of these Rocky style and you're liable to hurt your fist.

Like in the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory, there was a staggering number of hams.  Just hundreds and hundreds and rows and rows of these on multiple floors.

Also like in the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory, each ham is individually inspected and is fire-branded when approved.

A ham in the final curing stage, having been fire-branded as DOP certified.
Here are the final hams packaged up and ready to be sold.

We of course got a chance to try some slices of the ham out, of varying ages of curing.

The stuff was delicious.  Not as salty as you might expect, wonderfully fatty and soft, as in melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Our final stop was a "light lunch" at a place nestled in the hillsides of Parma.

The place we went to was owned by an Italian grandmother, who was wealthy (and was described as having could have stayed in 5-star hotels for the rest of her life), but enjoyed cooking so much that she  bought a chunk of land in the hillsides so that she could cook for people.

Here's the viewpoint from the building:

And by "light-lunch", I mean we had a 7-course meal that could go toe-to-toe with any Thanksgiving dinner you've had in challenging your waist-line.

The photos below may look like small portions; however, Alessandro was a persistent food pusher (very much like my extended family can get), dumping multiple rounds of each course onto your plate, protest or not.

There was 4 pastas, all home-made:

Tortellini in Cheese Sauce
Fantastic.  Burst of savory pork inside, akin to fresh, hand-made Chinese dumplings.

'Candy' Pasta
So called, because they are twisted like a candy shape.  Also bursts of a combination of flavor of the meat and the Bolognese sauce.

Tortolini w/ mushrooms
My favorite of the pastas.  Juicy and flavorful musrooms.

4-Cheese spinach pasta
Delicious, but OMG, the pastas were already doing a number to my stomach.

Wild boar in tomato sauce
(The drippings of sauce was Alessandro making fun of the decorative sauce drizzlings at fancier restaurants.)  Tender for boar.  Not quite my favorite meat, reminding me of ox tail, but less fatty.

Very nicely cooked.   Succulent and savory, similar to when you pan fry fatty dark meat chicken on and all those fatty oils come out.  Some light gravy sauce.

Grilled vegetables
Unpictured / Too full - only ate a morsel

Coffee Rum
Like a milkshake.  A lighter way to end an excellent, but gut-busting meal.

All in all, we had a phenomenal time on the tour and would have no doubt whatsoever in recommending it.

Italian Days Food Experience

1 comment:

  1. I happened upon your blog and was so delighted to see your adventures with Alessandro. I lived in Bologna for 6 months last year and you helped bring back many wonderful memories. Glad you liked Alessandro's tour as much as I did (and the several friends who came to visit and took it also). Thanks for the great pictures---Bologna is a wonderful place.