Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prosciutto di Parma

We left the Malpighi vinegar establishment a little lighter in the wallets but weighed down with some nice purchases of balsamic vinegar, and headed to our next culinary destination, the prosciutto plant of Cav. Ilari Alberto in Langhirano. Of course, we got misdirected and were off course for a few miles, but nothing too serious. Alberto came to meet us on the main street after a couple of calls asking for clarification of the directions, and we followed him to his fattoria.
We were greeted by his son, who was a lovely and gracious young man. We followed him down into the basement where we were met by the overwhelming sights and smells of prosciutto di parma. There was a power point presentation waiting for us, showing details of the different processes and we were also able to look through the many long racks of hams in the various stages of curing.
Prosciutto, unlike our deli ham, is not cooked. It is merely cured with salt until all the moisture comes out of the raw meat and then it is left to age and finish this natural process. As with the balsamic vinegar, there are very strict regulations for how the meat is deboned, cured, aged and tagged. It is labeled at every step of the way, from the farm it came from, to the butcher, through the various steps in the curing stations....every detail is logged and recorded.
We were told that our visit would be free unless we wanted a tasting which would cost 10E. At first we hesitated, thinking that a tasting would be a couple of slices of prosciutto and a bread stick. Boy, were we wrong!
When we were done with the tour, Alberto and his son escorted us into a lovely room where a table fit for a king was set. There were trays of prosciutto (so fresh and buttery right off the rack), some other salamis and deli products, a huge wedge of parmesan cheese, baskets of bread and a bottle of wine. We were all set for sure! Everything was so delicious and fresh, even the wine. I don't usually care for lambrusco, not liking sweet wines, but this was delicious and refreshing. It had a slight sparkle and was lovely and dry; the perfect complement for the fattier meats. As we were about to cry "Uncle", Alberto took our platter and refilled it with more prosciutto! Of course we couldn't insult him by not enjoying our seconds, so we managed to empty that tray as well.
I was hoping that this business was on Facebook because I would love to publicize their beautiful facility and their generosity. They told me that last year they did 84 tours, but I am sure they could do many more and would impress all those who wend their way out of Parma and into Langhirano.
This was the second stop on our culinary adventures, and it was certainly a memorable one! The next day we visited a company that makes the "undisputed King of Cheeses"....parmeggiano reggiano!

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