We had booked a food tour with Alessandra of Italian Days a few weeks ago. Larry and I had tossed the idea around for a while beforehand, as the 145 euro a head pricetag felt quite expensive. However, after looking into the cost of renting a car, gas, plus the difficulties of booking visits ourselves, we decided to just go with it. Afterward, we felt it was money well spent, as you are picked up at 7, visit 3 producers, have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide and two drivers, do a lot of tasting along the way, enjoy an enormous lunch in an agriturismo, and return to Bologna at 4. We learned quite a lot about making parmigiano cheese, balsamic, and prosciutto--although I could have happily spent less time looking at huge racks of pig legs. Eww, I much prefer my prosciutto sliced and on my plate with some melon. We also enjoyed spending time with the other people on the tour--a family from California, and couples from London and Australia. Oh, and we did buy a chunk of aged parmigiano, and some precious balsamic to serve by the drop.
Cheese being lifted from the whey. Six employees begin working at 4 am in this small factory.
Parmigiano aging room
Aceteria. Real certified balsamic is made by families, who age the vinegar in their attics. The vinegar spends years in the casks, being moved from different sized casks made from different woods to give subtle flavors--juniper, cherry, chestnut...The youngest it can be is 12 years old.
Ugh.The smell in here was a bit much. Family-owned prosciutto "factory." What is interesting is that the youngest hams are stored in the coldest rooms, and we noticed the temperatures got warmer as the aging process progressed. Which probably reflects the passing of the seasons, as the pigs were traditionally butchered just before Winter?
We had lunch in a lovely agriturismo in the hills outside Bologna. The food wasn't anything tremendously memorable, but tasty, and most certainly abundant. A salad, 3 pastas, secondo of beef (quite tough) with arugula, vegetables, and dessert. Plus a continuous pouring of the agriturismo's wines. (which were pretty lousy, but after 2 glasses, no one cared) Lots of fun, at any rate.