Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Balsamico Tradizionale to be exact. Our guide, Giulia and our driver, Pietro, picked us up at the hotel this morning at 8:30 and by 9:00 we were suited up and enveloped in the heady aromas of Parmegiano Reggiano. The facility is a cooperative owned by several farmers who provide milk twice daily to the cheese maker. Nothing goes to waste and the leftover liquid which is too acidic for use in cheese or dumping somewhere, is fed to those notorious gluttons, the pigs who will become Parma hams. We toured the factory and watched the cheese making process for a couple of hours before heading to a prosciutto factory to learn that only real Parma ham has a metal button impressed in it and other identifying factors. They even massage the exposed part of the ham with more pork fat to soften it and Linda and I are considering starting a skin care business based on it. Is the name, “Parma Fat, Sassy, and Smooth”, catchy enough?
Then off to lunch at a lambrusco winery which is produced here to cut through the fatty foods; lunch was local prosciutto, salami, a kind of cured ham not sold in the US, Parmigiana Reggiano, and ricotta stuffed ravioli with butter. That lambrusco, and a lightly sparkling white helped cut the fat but we would have devoured it all without the wine.
We ended the day at a facility that makes traditional balsamic vinegar which we learned is made from only grape juice and must be aged at least 12 years and in order to be sold as Balsamico Tradizionale, it must be bottled in a special bottle designed by a guy who designs Ferraris. In the past 30 or so years, the Italians have become very particular about the foods that represent them and they have done well.
A we drove back into Parma, Pietro pointed out the Barilla factory, but sadly, since the big Barilla push in the US a few years ago, our Barilla is made in the US and is owned by Kraft Foods.
This is our last full day in Italy. We leave by train for Zurich tomorrow and then fly to SFO Saturday.