Executive Sous Chef of Restaurants, David Patterson and chef de cuisine Justin Miller have been very busy dining their way through: Parma, Emilia-Romagna & Modeno, let’s see what they discovered.
Pio Tosini- Prosciutto di Parma
Pio Tosini is a family operated shop in Langhirano right outside of Parma. It is located here because the micro climate is a little drier than Parma and it is right along the Parma River. Giovanni Bianchi owns and operates the shop with his family and he was nice enough to give us a full tour of the facility. They only use the top 10% of the pigs from the top farmers of the region. The shop was built in the 1950’s after they outgrew the old facility that was originally located in the heart of the town.
• Upon receiving the hams they are inspected and rejected if they are not to standard.
• Next the skin is burnt and branded to tell when it was received, where from, and the Parma stamp which is the tell-tale sign that it is true Parma ham.
• The hams are then allowed to dry.
• The hams are salted twice on the 1st and 5th day during this stage, by the master salter (the most important job)
• After 3 weeks of being in a temperature controlled room the hams are hung for the first time.
• From there they apply Suna (lard with pepper), to allow the hams to breathe.
• Ruffino (a kind of mold) forms during the process.
• The curing room goes east to west and the windows are opened during the day to allow the air from the parma river to aid in the process.
• The curing room uses pine to hang the hams from which is part of a traditional method that Giovanni feels is better because it is a natural breathing product
• He personally inspects the hams to tell when they are ready, he can tell by the smell of the meat if it is mature or not
• 80,000 prosciuttos are processed a year
• The industry standard is 400 days but here they let their prosciuttos go for 500 days because Giovanni feels that this makes a superior product.
• He hands picks the prosciuttos for the Rogers collection based on size and fat content
Foods take aways
• Sbrisolona-walnut tart is meant to bring good luck to families around Christmas, they served theirs with a Madeira Crème sauce
• Prosciutto is a staple at every meal
• Anolini brodo- is a pork filled ravioli in broth
• Lambrusco is a lightly carbonated red wine of the area
• Torta Fritta is a traditional fried bread in the area
Valserena is a boutique cheese producer that is family owned and operated, also is completely self-sustainable. Giovanni Rondani is a descendant from a royal family in the area that takes great pride in making the best cheese possible. They grow the feed on their land which is one of the largest family owned farms in the area, most are part of bigger production facilities. He chooses to use the Italian Brown Cow for his milk; they are docile and well-structured animals.
They feed them short cut grain in the morning and long grain in the evening, to get good results with their milk. Giovanni’s family believes in giving the cows a very natural way of life by not feeding them hormones and trying to get them to produce more milk than they should. They say the average life of a cow in larger companies is 3-4 years, where their cows are healthy for up to 7 years. Giovanni has a lot of pride in making only the best cheese and he feels it is important for the food, lifestyle, breed and cheese making process that makes his product better than others.
• The cows are milked twice a day and you need both milks to produce the cheese.
• The night milk is put in large baths and allowed to sit over night.
• In the morning they put the morning milk in the cooking pots.
• Next the night milk is drained from the bottom to get a less fat content milk to then add to the morning milk.
• The left over cream from the night milk is sold separately.
• Next they heat the milk in the large copper pots to form the curds.
• The curd is then cut with a whisk that is made of wire blades.
• The smaller the curd is cut, the firmer a cheese it produces.
• The cheese is then strained into cheese cloth and placed in molds
• They use plastic “stamps” to imprint the name of the farm and the controlled logo to certify that it is true Parmigiano-Reggiano
• The cheese is left in the molds for 2 weeks and then in a salt bath for 3 weeks.
• The cheese is aged 24 months before it is ready for sale.
Acetaia Giuseppe Cattani- Casa del Balsamico Modenese
At casa del Balsamico they produce DOP controlled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. They make it by using the traditional battery of baricks or barrels made of chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and juniper. I had the pleasure of meeting Giuseppe while we were there; his home is between the cooking and aging floors of the building. He played a big role working with the factories making the recipe for the mainstream balsamic that you see in the grocery stores today. He said that he worked with a local company coming up with the process and once they started selling it, Nestle bought them out and turned it into a common product. During that time the DOP created regulations on what can be called tradizionale balsamico di Modena and Giuseppe is one of the few that has rights to label his as such. Robert Scrima, Giuseppe’s son in law, gave us the tour and will also take over the company one day. The tradition is that a family can only have one battery(collection of barrels) once they become married; the only other way to get one is to have it given to you by someone in your family.
• The family grows its own grapes without pesticide because that is the only way to get consistent results with the vinegar.
• They use 100% Trebbiano grapes to make their vinegar.
• Once the grapes are picked, they press them the same way you would wine.
• They allow it to form a must and the press it to get the juice.
• It is boiled and reduced by 2/3 before it goes into the largest barick.
• There are seven baricks in a battery and they become smaller and smaller.
• Every year you top off the smaller barrel from the larger barrel because of evaporation “angels share”.
• At 12 years you can pull 40% from the smallest barrel and give it a DOP sticker.
• You then refill with the larger and fill that with the one larger all the way back to the largest.
• There are also 18 year and 25 year classifications you can age to.
• The trick to good balsamico is to have a good balance of sweet and acidity without any addition of sugar.
• Balsamic was a focus on the menus and served at the table (of course).
• Spinach tortellini with ricotta is common in the area.
• Gnocco fritto- fried bread that was used as a garnish with prosciutto.
• Rabbit saddle wrapped in pancetta.
Next week we follow them through Garfagnana and Chianti!
Opening May 19, 2014