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ParmaGolosa Food Tour – In and Around Parma, Italy

November 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

This is a tour worth taking if you are at all interested in food, how it is made and why it is so expensive. When you see the amount of work that goes into these products you marvel at how anyone can make any money making food products.
Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy
We met our wonderful guide Laura at a turnoff from the autostrada and our tour started at the parmigiano reggiano maker, who works 365 days a year (cows don’t stop producing milk), 12 hours a day to produce 10 -15 wheels of cheese per day. It is crazy hard work – he must go pick up the morning milk, heat in in the vats and mix it with the evening milk (which he also had to pick up), then cut the fresh cheese (100kg into 2) and pull it up to drain, drain off the whey, place the cheese in molds. After that, the wheels are drained, brined and then stored. The wheels are either aged 12, 24 or 30/36 months. An inspector from the consortium checks each wheel to make sure it meets quality standards – basically by tapping on different portions of cheese to listen for a different sound when air bubbles are trapped in the cheese, usually in the centre. Air bubbles are bad since they mean that bacteria could have gotten trapped in the cheese and these wheels cannot be sold as parmigiano reggiano. The cheese that does make the grade is either labeled first grade (with a stamp) or second grade (with a stamp and 2 lines along both outer edges of the cheese – so even if you get a small slice of the outer rind, if it has a line then it is second grade).
Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy
Then we proceeded up the hillside to Conti – a Parma ham producer. The pigs can come from one of 11 regions but the Parma ham can only be made in Parma. Even before the curing process begins, only the best hind legs of the butchered pigs can be made into Parma ham. You know it is true Parma ham if there is a metal button/stamp near the bottom of the leg and the meat is branded with two stamps of Parma ham. The ones that do not make the grade are sold as proscuitto crudo. The meat is salted twice and then cured and stored for at least 18 months. The best Parma ham is cured in a room of wood (fraggio) racks because the wood absorbs fragrance from the older hams as well as imparting it to the newer hams.

Culatello is the best part of the leg and this smaller portion of meat is sent to one small village where it is made. It is more expensive than Parma ham. The taste is like…hmm…what’s the word I’m looking for…heaven? Well, close enough. This is very different ham from anything that we tried at Jamonissimo in Barcelona – it’s different than Iberico di bellota – plain and simple, and making a comparison would be comparing apples and oranges. I would eat both if given the opportunity, and if I had to choose, I would probably choose different ones on different days.
Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy
Mid-day, we stopped at Casale del Groppone – a wine and olive oil producer (and much more) at their beautiful store/restaurant high up on a hill for a spectacular lunch on a balcony overlooking the beautiful vineyards and olive groves in the distance. You know when you think of Italy, you think of sitting on a veranda in the shade, looking out over the hills and picking away at a plate of prosciutto, drinking wine, and enjoying the dry heat of summer? That’s what this was. Exactly what this was. You get the picture.
Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy Parma Golosa Food Tour - In & Around Parma, Italy
After the delicious lunch, on to the Medici Ermete Balsamic Vinegar tour. This is not the balsalmic vinegar that you dip your bread into – this is totally different – it is viscous, unctuous, absolutely delicious stuff that is so sweet you can pour it on ice cream. This seems to be made more as a labour of love and tradition than economics. This producer bottles 11 million bottles of wine but only 1200 bottles of traditional balsamic vinegar per year (each bottle is 100mL). The vinegar is aged in barrels (different woods provide different flavours) 12-20 years (red label – 40 Euros), 20-25 years (silver label – 60€) or 25+ years (gold label – 80€). The red label is good for salads, the silver label is more versatile and can be used for salads/rice/meat/dessert and the gold is for dessert. The difference between Traditional balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinegar of Modena is that the TBV is made from must only, has no additives and is aged for years. The non-traditional balsamic vinegar contains vinegar, additives and is only aged 20 days before being bottled. We tried the different vinegars, and as it got older, it became more syrupy, richer and sweeter but still retaining the background tartness.

This was a spectacular day – touring around Parma with our fantastic guide who was so knowledgeable and happy to explain everything to us. It gave us a new appreciation for the people who make our food, and we still marvel at how people can work so hard to produce things that we love so much, yet receive so little for their work. This world is definitely not fair – and certainly not fair to those who work every day to put food on our table.

If you’re anywhere even near Parma, and you want to spend an absolutely fabulous day learning about food, increasing your appreciation for the word artisanal and seeing how much work it is to produce a product of such high quality – ParmaGolosa is an excellent way to do it. The day literally couldn’t have been better.

www.parmagolosa.it

Tags: Favorites · Food Tour · Italian

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nick // May 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    As senior Tour guide with Parmagolosa I have to say this is a great yet accurate editorial. We pride ourselves in giving you a wonderful insight and delicious experience…yes the day is special beyond most people expectations.

    Welcome to the world of Parmagolosa and hope to see you soon.

    Nick Garrett

  • 2 Joanne Pellecchia // Jul 23, 2010 at 7:24 am

    July 2010
    From personal experience, I can honestly say that this tour was a definite highlight of our trip to Italy. If you are a lover of Italian food, this tour is a must and well worth the price. Laura was gracious, personable and full of valuable information, she is a gem!
    Thank you Laura!
    Fondly,
    Joanne & John Pellecchia
    Megan & Todd LaVogue
    Florida, USA

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