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PARMA HAM: THE WORLD’S BEST PROSCIUTTO:)

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PARMA HAM: THE WORLD’S BEST PROSCIUTTO:)

By Filippo Bartolotta

I managed to go to bed pretty early in Parma and again I wake up and discover, during my early run that I am not too far away from the element water.

I love to discover cities and countryside wherever I travel through my morning runs. It somehow gives you a different feeling of belonging to the place.

Discovering for instance the Baptistery and the Duomo di Parma when nobody is around gives me a certain feeling of lust and intimacy at the same time.

I also like the idea to arrive hungry for my breakfast:)

Tomorrow morning I would have a run in the Giardini Reali in Turin. I was meant to go catch a train to Florence and instead I am going back to Langhe for more Barolo!

Today though I am hanging around in Parma with Fabrizio Raimondi, the head of press at the Consorzio Prosciutto di Parma. I am here on a quest to better understand this fantastic ham produced since Roman times. So off we go to see the first producer passing by the beautiful Castello di Torrechiara built by Count Pier Maria Rossi in mid 15th Century quite possibly to seduce and spend some nights in the so called Golden bedroom!

Parma Ham is 100% natural product.

The Ingredients for Parma Ham are basically three:

1) high quality well treated and well fed pigs

2) best salt in the market

3) dry clean air

…and

4) time

Every Parma Ham can be traceable all the way to breeder, the age of the animal, the origin of the slaughter house and the curing date. This way producers and consumers  can always check quality and origin. Of course all of the above is certified by law by an independent body which will ensure everything is carried out according to procedures. After many quality checks (organoleptic and veterinarian ones -one a day for the ham that go to the US!-) the ham will receive the famous Parma Crown seal of approval only after a minimum of 12 months of aging. Every year almost 10 million hams are produced

The production stages are the following ten:

1) Cutting

2) Cooling

3) Trimming

4) Salting

5) Rest

6) Washing/drying

7) Pre-curing

8) Greasing

9) Curing

10) Branding

1) Cutting. Before slaughter the pig must  be: healthy, rested and have fasted for min a min of 15 hours. Now the curing date seal is applied to the leg.

2) Cooling. The insulated leg is left for 24 hours to 0°C for hygienic reasons.

3) Trimming fat and meat is necessary to give the ham the typical “chicken leg” shape and to prepare it for salting.

4) Salting. The salt comes from the best Italian area which is Trapani in Sicily.

Very skillful people salt the leg on the most delicate parts with different amount here and there: too much and the ham wouldn’t be sweet anymore…too little and the ham would go bad! Humid salt is used for the pig skin and dry salt is used for the muscular parts.

The legs stay in the so called “first salt” room for a week -1°C to 4°C and 80% humidity.

Then it would go for another two week in the “second salt” room. Here it will louse 4% of its weight.

5) Rest. After removing the residual salt the ham goes to the rest store for 60/70 days at 70 degrees of humidity and between 1-5 °C. Here the ham would assimilate the salt evenly in each part loosing 10% more of its weight.

6) Washing/drying. Hot water is used to get rid of residual salt and impurity.

7) Pre-curing. The ham would spend three months hanging on wood frames called “scalere”. Here is when the airflow regulation is paramount to regulate humidity and fresh air, opening and closing windows when necessary to breath the marine/alpine air. The ham would loose another 10% of weight.

8) Greasing.The cavity around the bare parts are covered in order to protect the ham from further weight loss and to retain the right level of moisture.

The animal lard is mixed with a little pepper and sometimes ground rice to protect the ham also from excessive oxidization. .

9) Curing. We are now on the seventh month of aging and the ham is transferred into the cellars. Here there’s less air and a lot of important enzymatic and biochemical process take place contributing to the typical Parma ham character.  5% more of the weight is lost.

In order to check quality is carried out the “sounding”.

A horse bone needle is inserted and extracted super quickly to check the aromas of the ham.

10) Branding After a compulsory minimum aging of 12 months the ham can get the fire-branding with the famous Ducal Crown.

At this stage the ham has roughly lost 30% of it’s original weight and gained a lot in delicate and complex flavors and texture.

Now I am ready to try some…

So we head back to the centre of Parma for an aperitif at the Antica Osteria Fontana: a traditional laid-back wooden type table osteria bar where one can get from as little as a focaccia with Parma ham all the way to a pasta dish.

We go for a Parma Ham snack. The nutritional values of this product, loved already by Cato in 2BC, are extraordinary.

For every 100gr of lean Parma Ham -without visible fat-: 61.8% water, 26,87% proteins; 5,97% salt and 3,46% fat for a total of 138 kcal

For every 100gr of Parma ham with fat: 50,84% is water; 22,27% proteins; 21, 01% fat; 4,84% salt or a total of 280 kcal.

Parna ham is also packed with a lot of important minerals like phosphorus, potassium, irons and zinc; important free amino acids and over 60% of the fat composition is based on oleic, linoleic and steraic acids useful in preventing atherosclerosis.

Take a stroll around town to see the Duomo, the Teatro Farnese and or the Camera di San Paolo to admire the authentic Correggio and Parmigianino before going for lunch.

We decide for La Greppia. An old institution in Parma where they keep the best Prosciutto di Parma and other sublime hams and salamis and a spectacular Parmigiano Reggiano selection. On top of this one should go for their very fresh seasonal vegetables -we went for the artichokes- and their delicious home made pasta.

Aside from the love and caring that you will receive in this restaurant there is another important reason to come and visit: the deep wine list with the greatest prices ever seen. From a Sassicaia ’83 for €550, Quintarelli Amarone 1990 for €420, a Monfortino 1990 for €300 or a Tignanello 1980 for €280! I look forward to be there again!

Ravioli all’erbette.

Fabrizio and I go for a little after lunch walk and a coffee at the Oriental Caffè in Piazza Garibaldi. This is a lovely elegant and a little Parisian like place where together with a fantastic Parma Hams selection and good pasta one can find an outstanding Champagne list of little high quality growers for an excellent price.

After five day on the run across north west Italy, I was actually ready to go home when the office calls me for a last minute in Langhe with Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre.

the two american Ice-Skating champions on a mission to discover Barolo. I discovered this couple thanks to Kate and John in Cinncinnati while watching some competition. The world Ice-skating championship was taking place in Torino these days and so here I go to one of the most beautiful and underrated towns of the Bel Paese where our dearest friend Barbara lives. So let’s run for the train!!!

During the trip from Parma I manage to work and rest a bit. As I get off the train station in Torino I go to the “Confetteria Avvignano” to get an easter egg for my little friend Zeno.

I take a lovely walk into centre of town to relax after the long day. As I get to Barbara’s, I found there a lovely dinner with some specials prepared by Zeno, the ten years old kid who defines himself as a Chef of Extreme Cuisine.

Among the other dishes one that stood out from the crowd was the Tacos de Fuego, followed by another two unnamed dishes.

Went to bed really late after sharing a nice 2004 Ferrari Perle. I managed to get off the bed by 0700 to go for my run. And…sure enough I have some water one block away from my bed from which I can see the Mole:

Giardini Reali, Piazza San Carlo and straight for the shower and quickly to pick up Kim and Brenton.

Our first stop is Elvio Cogno, today in wonderful shape maybe for the spectacular day and for the great tension of his Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera 2005.

The more I taste wine and the more humbly I feel one should approach this great product. Usually is Vigna Elena the most opened, but not today when the Ravera was the warmest hug and caress one could have asked for in the morning. Above all after a not too easy getaway from the city! Our driver Gianluca couldn’t make it today and so a very unfit replacement who managed to get lost a few times!

The view of the Novello vineyards and the Alps in the background put everyone in the right mood for the day.

After tasting the whole production including the very floral and elegant Barbaresco 2006 -great surprise of the day- we set off for lunch at Bovio.

Before going back to Torino we stop at Mauro Molino where we discover that Matteo has hidden his beautiful sister from the wine scene!

Now the Molino family has acquired another enologist and ambassador for the winery!

My favorite of today have been without doubts the sweetly dense Barbera Vigna Gattere 2007 and the dark side of smooth La Morra “Barolo Vigna Conca 2005”.

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Christmas comes but once a year…with "Italy at Your Table"!

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Christmas comes but once a year…with “Italy at Your Table”

by Filippo Bartolotta

Christmas comes but once a year and since the arrival of the two monkeys in the old mill, we have decided to make it a big children moment.

Every year we build a green Christmas tree picking branches from the woods around the house and decorating them with various wild berries and leaves and then adding up the most beautiful Christmas balls made by Catia Massai in Barberino.

I buy one a year  to pull them out every Christmas. Artisan products last longer then us, they are all unique pieces and they give a special touch to our home.

And so when opening that refreshing and invigorating liquid that we all love during this time of the year one fills even more pampered and loved.

Usually now is when I manage to take a break, relax and enjoy a slower working peace. But this year is different.

Last summer Vanessa and I decided to organize a long winter break  to the US.

As we were telling friends&family, clients&suppliers about it we begun to realize that we were bound to put together some wine tasting events as we were going along.

So one of our older customers calls us to book an evening, then is time for another and in a couple of months a thirty dates road show was set around the US.

All of a sudden the couple of wine tasting to some of our private collectors and clients became a huge project now called “Italy at Your Table”.

The idea is to get a group of 20-30 friends to gather around one of their homes with me presenting some of Italy’s finest wines in the most friendly way possible. Once the first dates were set and the first wineries signed up for it we understood that Benedetta Vitali from the Zibibbo Restaurant would have gone for a cooking road show on the same period: in a blink of an eye, rather then Tasting with Filippo or Cooking with Benedetta, now is both experiences at once.

This has given the whole project a new boost up. And now we are going to be holding evenings not only with our precious and faithful clients but also at famous restaurants, like Rialto in Boston or Quince in San Francisco.

On top of this in Washington, together with the great Chef Alice Waters,  Tom Colocchio, Josè Andrès and the atomic food&wine journalist Joan Nathan, we will be part of a big charity event “SUNDAY NIGHT SUPPER“. Here LeBaccanti and all the Italian Producers with us will try to make the difference! I’ll be up-dating all this with more details as I go ahead, of course.

These the magic wineries and producers which are kindly and proudly part-taking at this great adventure.

LeBaccanti will of course give a more “serious” account of all the events and press release.

Aceto Balsamico Malpighi

Arnaldo Caprai

Banfi

Bindella

Bruno Giacosa

Casa Vinicola Luigi Cecchi e Figli

Castell’inVilla

Castello di Monsanto

Cesani

Cogno

Col d’Orcia

ColleMassari

Consorzio Prosciutto di Parma

Fattoria di Cusona

Ferrari-Lunelli

Fontodi

Fratelli Revello

Gigi Rosso

Giovanni Panizzi

Grattamacco

Il Palagione

Il Solatione

Isole e Olena

Latium Amarone

Massolino

Mauro Molino

Marchesi Gonzaga-Tenuta di San Leonardo

Montevetrano

Poderi Boscarelli

Proprietà Sperino

Punset

Silvio Nardi

Terra al Sole

Tenuta delle Ripalte-Meletti Cavallari

Tornesi

Valiano


Our home is going to be the East-Village in NYC next to a lovely kindergarden for Milo and Daphne.

I will though be spending most of my time on the plane or opening bottles of wine:)

This is a very exciting project that was embraced by almost all of the people I have spoken to with the most up-lifting and energetic approach. Another time, in another post, I’ll give a more precise account of everything with the credits to each and everyone who helped making all this happen.

Actually another little great news coming from Italy at Your Table is related to the Techno-Bohemian movement with John Malkovich, Simone Ramilli, Pierpaolo Moroni. I was asked to join in the group as the wine-guru and so more news to come from this new big project.

Very soon the real thing…

Meanwhile these were my Christmas presents which I had with great joy and pleasure.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Tenuta di Fessina-Musumeci 2007 (magnum)

Juicy and peppery wine with a perfumed nose and a perfect cranberries and cherry velvet palate. Very easy to finish even the double size bottle!

This is the first and well executed  attempt of Silvia Maestrelli of the Tuscan Petriolo Estate in Etna. A few years ago she kicked off with the reserved help of Federico Curtaz.

Chianti Classico Il Solatione 2006

This is one of the rare examples of pure, simple Sangiovese fruit at its best. A wine with an amazing alcoholic balance, smooth tannins and plenty of depth for a regular Classico from a small and cute family run Azienda Agricola.

Barbaresco Punset Barbaresco 2004

Awesome vintage for the only organic estate in Barbaresco. Marina Marcarino has been starting this adventure alone with a great energy and motivation which is somehow dripped into her wines: rich and savory this Barbaresco with plenty of complex earthy tones and clean fruit.

Tenuta Friggiali Brunello PIetranera 2003 (double Magnum format)

A massivily black cerry packed Brunello with a lot of leathery and tobacco complexity.

Very rich and quite hot palate with a lengthy licorice and forrest fruit finish.

This is the open friendly South-East vineyard Brunellos of the Centolani family in Montalcino.

Tenuta delle Ripalte Aleatico dell’Elba 2006 and 2007

Here comes the end of the Holiday dinners with one of Italy’s most respected wine makers. Piermario Meletti Cavallari after making his Super Tuscan Grattamacco famous around the block he sold it and begun a new venture in the Island of Elba in Tuscany to make an extremely difficult wine: Aleatico Passito. Its a red dessert wine with plenty of juicy refreshing character of forrest fruit and hezelnuts combined with a touch of crounchy chocolaty mouth-fill. The ’06 has got more vanilla and structure, the ’07 is more on the jucy savory fruit. A delight with the Marron Glacè from the Badiani Pasticceria!

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