Parma, Italy – Parmesan, Prosciutto, Balsamic Vinegar – Where all good things come from

Parma, Italy where so many delicious things come from! Because Dan and I are fatties this is the place in Italy we chose so we could really immerse ourselves in the Italian culture away from the tourists and gorge ourselves on delicious Italian pasta, pizza, parmesan, and prosciutto. Parma is a really small sleepy town and was even quieter because a lot of the businesses were closed for summer vacation. During our stay here our only goals were to visit producers of Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Balsamic Vinegar (in Modena) and eat delicious Italian food.

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Cathedral of Parma. We stayed right down the street from here.
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Frescoe in cathedral painted by Antonio da Correggio titled Assumption of the Virgin.
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Parma Citadel. Inside is a nice park.

Instead of opting for a Parma food tour through one of the tour companies we decided to rent a car and arrange our own tours. We ended up getting in touch with a small prosciutto producer – Rosa Dell’Angelo who not only produces prosciutto they raise black pigs (similar to the Spanish Iberico hams) and make prosciutto with those also along with the traditional prosciutto di parma. In order to be called prosciutto di parma the pigs have to be fed a certain percentage of whey and grain, be a specific type of pig, and then once they are slaughtered and you have the thigh they have to be aged for a certain number of months and can only be rubbed with salt. After all of this they will be certified and stamped with the Parma crown. During our tour we really got to see from farm to table how prosciutto di parma is made.

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Prosciutto di Parma. Making sure we are keeping with the food safety codes in these sweet outfits.
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The parma crown stamp means it has been certified prosciutto di parma.

We also arranged a tour and got to see how Parmigiano Reggiano is made at Giansanti. We were so surprised at how simple the process is compared to how amazing the cheese tastes. Here is the process simplified: 1)take milk from cow, 2)cook and had rennin to milk, 3)remove curd and place into plastic cylinder,4)leave for a day, 5)press pamigiano reggiano label into sides of cheese, 6)let dry for a few more days, 7)place into salt water for 25 days turning daily, 8)remove to room and allow dry for at least a year and up to 5 years. That is it! Such a simple process for a great product. Parmigiano Reggiano follows a similar type of rules on how the cheese needs to be made in order for it to be certified Parmigiano Reggiano. We were able to taste 12 month, 24 month, and 48 month and you can definitely taste the difference the sweetness of the cheese leaves and the saltiness appears. Apparently after 36 months the lactose has crystallized and is no longer a problem for people who are lactards (yea me!!)

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Stacks and stacks of cheese.
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Cheese from August 2011. So this one has been aging for 4 years. Yummy,

Because we couldn’t get enough of tours and learning how delicious things are made we arranged a tour at a balsamic vinegar producer, Leonardi, in Modena. This producer made the balsamic vinegar that Kate and Prince William had at their wedding so you know that they are legit. We also learned on this tour that balsamic vinegar is also easy to make you just need 10-30 years of patience. In case you were wondering or wanted to get educated here is how it works (again in simple person tours) 1)juice grapes from harvest, 2)cook grape juice), 3)add grape juice to really old barrels with a hole open to the atmosphere, 4) wait one year, 5)take out top half of aged juice and move to different old barrel, and 6)continue for 10-100 years. So the secret to making balsamic is the wood of the barrels that you use and which barrel you use each year that you are aging. You can use juniper, oak, cherry, ash, and other types of oak to create your flavor/recipe of balsamic. We were able to taste different balsamic vinegars made from just oak barrels, cherry barrels, or juniper barrels. It was amazing how different the taste was depending on the oak. We ended up buying a few to ship home since finding awesome balsamic for a decent price is so hard in the states.

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Balsamic barrels. Note the cloth over the open tops so the balsamic can aged being exposed to the air.
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Oldest barrel at Leonardi. Yea the date says its from 1620. Thats one old barrel.

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Other things that come from Modena that we didn’t realize before we go there are Ferrari’s! The Ferrari factory is in Maranello which is 30 minutes outside of Modena. We ended up going to the Enzo Ferrari museum which was super cool. They had a ton of sweet Ferrari’s and you got to get up close and personal with them. They also had a fun movie that they should that paired Ferrari’s with opera sung by Luciano Pavarotti, who is also from Modena.

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Look at all of the Ferraris!
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Kristin pin up posing with the F-50.
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Artsy Ferrari shot with the La Ferrari. Sexy.

The last goal of being in Parma was eating delicious Italian food and we definitely succeeded at that. We got a recommendation to eat at Sorelle Picchi and it was amazing we ended up going back again. Some highlights were the Truffle Pasta and Truffle Guinea Fowl not just because they were extremely delicious but because when the waiter brought you your dish he also brought over a fresh black truffle and then proceeded to shave it over your plate like it was parmesan. So tasty. We also had this amazing prosciutto, asparagus, mushroom risotto which was unreal. We also went to another delish restaurant called Panino d’artista and Dan ending up getting a horse sandwich. Yup you heard me horse meat. It actually tasted like a roast beef so not bad.

We had a really good time chillaxing in Parma but now off to Croatia for some fun in the sun (and maybe less food and more exercise)!

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