3 Food Factories That You Can Visit In Italy

Bologna, the food capital of Italy has a very special way of welcoming visitors. The locals allow them to see how they make their most signature, gourmet food items: Parma ham, parmesan cheese and traditional balsamic vinegar.

They do this in the form of tours that you can join any time. The food tours also allow you to pay for a lunch where you get to enjoy these Italian delicacies. These tours, as you can imagine, are organized by tour firms in the region. Let’s look at the gourmet items one by one.

Parma ham factory, Italy

Parma ham factory, Italy ©flickr.annieandrew

Traditional balsamic vinegar goes back to more than 1,000 years. Legend has it that it was discovered quite by accident. It is made from the juice of very specific grapes (. It is first boiled and then fermented in wooden barrels for several years, sometimes as many as 25.  During the fermentation process, the vinegar is moved from barrel to barrel in a very specific order. Eventually, when you open the barrels, you find a bitter sweet thick black “condiment” that makes any kind of food a delight. You should note that it isn’t quite recommended for salads (although it makes them delicious). It is used more in preparing meat dishes, pasta and risotto.

Let’s move on to parmesan cheese. There are several factories in the city that you can visit and see the production of this special cheese. You are able to follow the process, from when milk is delivered in the morning to when the cheese maker turns it into cheese and then stores it for maturation. All the milk that is used to make this cheese comes from cows in Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Reggio Emilia. They are only supposed to eat grass or hay and do not consume additives and antibiotics like cows in other parts of Europe. All the harvested milk is pure, no additives at all. The cheese is stored in stainless steel casings in the shape of a wheel which is then tied tight. The makers also brand each wheel of cheese with the factory number, the month and the year the cheese was made. At some stage in the process, the cheese wheel is brined for 25 days after which they are then stored for ageing for at least 12 months. The great thing about a parmesan cheese tour is that you will get to sample the cheese.

The last is of course parma ham. It is made from the back leg of a pig. The leg is washed and then salted carefully. The salting is what changes  and transform the meat. It also eliminates water from it which start an enzymatic fermentation and the curing process. During the maturing process, the ham is hanged in specialized cellars for at least 12 months. The final product is a sweet and delicate pork meat product that is famous around the globe. For more information about how Parma ham is made please visit the cosortium website.

Visitors can sample, see and buy the products all in one day. Ideally the tour should be taken from Bologna, Modena or Parma and have their own vehicle.

Gabriele Monti is  dedicated gourmet travel writer the for the site www.emililadelizia.com a company specialising in food tours in Italy

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