The culinary traditions of Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is often overlooked by the tourists coming to Emilia Romagna. Reggio Emilia is a medium size town on the Via Emiia situated between Modena and Parma, and it makes the perfect base for the culinary traveller as there are many gourmet foods to be discovered.

Reggio Emilia and Parmesan cheese.

Reggio Emilia is in the cradle of Parmigiano Reggiano. The history of this amazing cheese starts here. Bibbiano has been named the town where the first production started around 900 years ago due to the discovery of the first written accounts of the cheese production. Therefore visiting Reggio Emilia makes perfect sense for those interested in seeing the production of Parmesan cheese.

Traditional balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia.

Modena made balsamic vinegar known worldwide but the production of aceto balsamic tradizionale is not restricted to the Modenese province. In the tradition balsamic vinegar was the dowry of young women who would marry and bring the vinegar barrels with them. Due to the close proximity of the two provinces the tradition was also brought in Reggio Emilia. Here it is possible to find more old fashioned producers who make only high quality traditional balsamic vinegar rather than concentrating on industrial vinegar as many do in Modena.

Fresh Egg Pasta: tortelli di zucca.

Of course Reggio Emilia, as all towns in the Emilia Region, produces its own version of fresh egg pasta. One of the most peculiar ones are the Tortelli di Zucca. Sometimes hat or ravioli shaped these parcels are filled with ricotta cheese, parmesan and pumpkin. Some recipes require a hint of crumbled amaretti biscuits in the filling, it is indeed an acquired taste but they can be delicious when topped with melted butter parmesan cheese and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

A Medieval Pie: Erbazzone.

Erbazzone belongs to the simple farmer’s style cuisine. The women in the kitchen had to come up with something filling and tasty so erbazzone is a pastry made with lard and flour with a filling of chard, spinach, or whatever was in the allotment at the time of preparation. The filling requires to be laced with parmesan cheese, and you could put as much as you could afford. The pastry is pierced with a fork to let vegetable inside to steam when baking in the oven.

Culaccia ham.

Culaccia is a culatello, (the best prosciutto cut) but it is cured with the rind on. This technique allows the meat to stay soft and tender. Culaccia can be found on the Reggio Emilia hills where the climate is drier and away from the foggy plains. In some cases Culaccia beats Parma ham and culatello in tasting competitions. So it is well worth to look for some slices of culaccia in the next trip to Italy.

20130129-132917.jpg

erbazzone made the traditional way

Parmesan production video – how Parmigiano Reggiano is made

Normally its cows that are branded, but this is Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy often referred to as parmesan cheese. Parmesan does start with cows but it’s only their milk we want. This dairy in Mantova, Italy uses half a ton of milk for each block of cheese. It’s made in these huge copper vats. Each one holds 990 liters enough to make two giant Parmesan wheels.

Those cows have a lot of grass to eat to keep up with production. Parmesan is a hard cheese so the milk needs to be solidified. The ideal temperature for this is 33 degrees. To get the milk to solidify, the cheese maker will use rennets. This enzyme comes from calves stomachs, and it’s poured in and left for a moment to work its magic.

Because of strict European laws constraining trademarks. Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made in certain Italian regions. This means each producer must make as much as they can because global demand is huge. As the rennet takes effect, the head cheese maker will notice subtle changes in the milk’s consistency.

The workers keep a very close eye out so they know when to start the next step. When the time is right, they get to work. Using custom made cutters, they slice through the yogurt-like substance, breaking it into lumps. This helps separate the cheese curds from the whey. After three minutes of this, the temperature is raised and the two parts separate.

The solid curds fall to the bottom leaving the liquid whey at the surface. This custom made knife casts over 4,000 pounds and it’s designed to cut the big lump of cheese at the bottom of the tank in half. In the Parmesan business, high tech goes hand in hand with old school. The cheese master now uses his big wooden paddle to lift the two halves so his colleagues can wrap them in cloth.

If they left the cheese in the bottom of the tank, someone would have to climb inside to get them out. This way is far easier. The workers can now suck out all the old whey, making the tanks ready for the next load of milk. Once the cheese is removed, it’s wrapped up and a weight is put on top. This squeezes out excess fluid.

As a hard cheese, Parmesan needs as little fluid as possible. It’ll remain like this for eight hours in a Teflon-mold. As the cheese spreads out, this imprints the dairy’s name into the sides. After about 24 hours, the Teflon form is substituted for a metal one. Here it will sit down and take on the characteristic wheel shape with a flat top and bottom and curved sides.

After three days in their molds, these cheeses could really do with a bath, a salt bath. This process actually improves that cheesy smell. The cheese is left in this salty brine for a month before it’s taken out to be dried. This helps improve the cheese’s final flavor. Once it’s time to get out of that shag bathwater they make their way to the ripening room.

The contents of this room are estimated have a total value of 17 million pounds and our freshly baked Parmesan wheels are about to join them. The wheels will spend up to two years in here maturing slowly. But to avoid growing mold they have to be turned at least once every two weeks. Turning this many cheeses would be very dull and very hard so a robot is used instead.

Although after doing this job for such a long time it looks like the robots could also do with some turning. As it matures the staff keep a close eye on the cheeses. Using his official hammer the head cheesemaker will tap on a random sample. His expert ear knows the sound of a good Parmesan from a bad one.

He’ll use a little corkscrew to test a sample, and ensure the cheese is maturing nicely. When he satisfied it up to scratch, he’ll fire up his trusty brand and mark the cheese. From it’s humble beginnings via some rather dark and briny bathwater, the world’s favorite pasta topping is born.

The Text has been extracted from this video, the cheese represented is actually Grana Padano and not Parmigiano Reggiano.

 

A video in high quality shot during our gourmet tours in June 2012, with cool music and special effect enjoy.

Tenuta Rampada and Traditional balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia

Originally appeared on Fine dining Lovers by San Pellegrino

Transcribed by Marcelo Pinto  June 1st, 2012

The traditional balsamic Italian vinegar from Reggio Emilia is one of the most
well knows product of the Italian cuisine. A rare product spread all around the
world for its particular taste ad proprieties. Grapes and tradition linked to
give to the people a unique product loved by everyone. A way of life, tradition
and respect for the land, love and family heritage that stand still in this
particular area since many years. The Italian food culture is well know all
around the planet and this is why it is so. The heritage of the families stand
where it belongs.

The Rampata word comes from a non common term, a dialect from Reggio Emilia
“La Rampeda”, a famous area that slopes or in some cases “ramps” upwards the
hills around.
We find our selves on the banks of the little Enza river in the Montecchio
Emilia area. A region well known for Lambrusco and obviously for the balsamic
vinegar from the region
Henry III of Franconio in 1046 crossed the north of Italy traveling to Rome to
see the Pope and receiving the imperial coronation.
In the days in the Po’s region he brought a lot of gift to Boniface of Canossa,
the father of Matilda and one of the most relevant men in the kingdom. This
is because he’d like to receive in return the famous vinegar from this area a
product well known in the area and made in his castle. Many people told him
about the qualities of this product.
Balsamic vinegar is a rare good, a luxury good because the specific
term “balsamic” comes from the word “balsam” and it was used and considered in
the past as a drug and an elisir of long life.
The secret of this product is the time that guarantees the best quality and it’s
impossible to have a traditional balsamic vinegar from Reggio Emilia without a
long time process.
We’re cooking the grape juice because the must needs one day cooking in a
cauldron directly on the fire, but at low heat.
In this way. The liquid part slowly disappear and the sugars can concentrate.
When the product will be put into barrels the natural process will happen, the
fermentation that get converted the sugar into alcohol.
When I was young, none of us: my brother, my cousins and me can help in this
particular phase because it was considered too dangerous.
We can watch the cooking from the window and because it needs a long time, we
woke up early in the mourning opening the windows smelling the aroma of the must
entering the rooms.
Knowing what was happening, but the only thing we could do was to peeking out
from the window.
Our farm stands inside the vineyards, our oxygen, our family’s oxygen.
We have Malvasia’s wine, Trebbiano, Ancellotta, Grasparossa and few varieties of
Lambrusco.
There is a maniac care gives to the plants, because we perfectly know that
everything is born from here, from this soil. So we can’t leave everything to
chance, especially in this last period, thanks to all the attention and care to
the basic ingredients and production phases of the Lambrusco Wine, we’ve reached
incredible results.
Not just the Italian market, but also the foreign markets have given us huge
satisfaction. Wines absolutely need a good years.
We try to produce the traditional balsamic vinegar during good vintage, but the
grapes play quite a relative role, meaning that grapes juice when cooked for
long time automatically loses a but of its vintage.
Talking about the traditional balsamic vinegar, really needs ageing in the
barrels, into the barriques. This is the real secret.
We’re in the “acetaia”, in the attic. All the “acetaie” are always in the top
parts of the buildings, in the attics because the strong cold during the winter
time and the humid heat during the summer are really crucial.
To get the traditional balsamic vinegar you need a series of different barrels
called “batteria”.
Our family tradition use to have a 5 barrels series made of different sizes: 50
litres, 40 litres, 30 litres, 20 and 15 litres. All made from different woods.

Evey time a child was born, especially a girl, a new “batteria” of barrels
started. This “batteria” was given as dowry for the future marriage of this
girl.
Every member of my family has a personal “batteria” and obviously every
personal “batteria” is personally considered the best one.
Thinking about my childhood the treasures were these family traditional balsamic
vinegar barrels.
My family has been producing traditional balsamic vinegar and wine for 4
generation, about 100 years.
My grandfather Ermete inherited this passion for the work, the wine, while the
traditional balsamic vinegar was kept only for family use.
The word “tradition” is connected entirely to my microcosm like everything that
belongs to me. It’s an experience of my life, a part of me from the outside and
the inside.
The important is communicating this feelings in a correct way to the others, not
only the children, but all the persons the we meet daily.
I have a huge respect for the people who have passed this down to me, but always
watching to the future.

The Italian tradition inside a simple product that is possible to use in many
different ways. A precious recipe that stand still on the top of the Italian
goods export. The traditional balsamic vinegar from Reggio Emilia is the essence
of the Italian rural culture and a cuisine product that is possible to use on
many different foods. If you have never tried this amazing product, now it’s
time to change you habits and to enjoy the taste of a unique essence.

 

 

Parmesan cheese BANK – BBC news

Transcribed by Marcelo Pinto  June 1st, 2012

It’s a bank, but not as we know it. With all the security of any vault, except in here, it’s not money they’re guarding but cheese.

Three hundred thousand blocks of Parmesan cheese worth 120 million pounds to be exact. All part of a unique cheese for money loan program run by a bank. We help fiance the Parmesan cheese makers because their cheese takes two years before it’s ready for sale, that gives them a cash flow problem. So we take take their cheese in return for a cheap loan.

The Credem Bank takes the cheese from local producers on deposit and stores it here. It’s cleaned, turned, and tapped in a constant process of checking. Once the cheese is here in this vault both the parmesan cheese maker and the bank want to make sure it’s kept in top quality condition. Which is why this man is tapping it, he’s an expert in keeping that parmesan fresh.

A small wonder because this one block weighs 40 kilograms and is worth more than five hundred and fifty pounds. Giovanni Gualdi is 71 and has been a parmesan cheese maker all his life. But it’s a slow labor intensive process. But whilst the cheese ripens, the bills and wages still have to to be paid.

More than a hundred cheese makers have been forced out of business in the past five years. That’s why those like Giovanni rely on a cash-for-cheese agreement to be paid.

It ‘s been a difficult 5 years. The market has been very bad. Businesses here have spent money so they rely on the loans. Otherwise they would shut.

If the producer defaults on his loan, Credem Bank can simply sell the parmesan. It’s thinking about extending the idea to olive oil and parma ham. For now though it’s cheese and a bank that’s taking a mature attitude to lending. Duncan Kennedy, BBC News, Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy.

 

Earthquake in Emilia Romagna shakes 30,000 wheels of Parmesan

Tremors and damages in the area around Ferrara.

by Marcelo Pinto Sunday, May 20th, 2012

In the early hours of the Morning of 20th May 2012 an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck the area around Ferrara. Many people felt the bang in the middle of the night and they were awaken by the shaking. There have been instanced of severely damaged building in the area and 4 people seems to have died due to the shaking.  Ferrara is a town in the region of Emilia Romagna about 70 km from Modena and 50 km from Bologna. Despite the epicenter being between Modena and Bologna and the damage here in Modena and Bologna was minimal only a major scare for everyone. The train line was suspended for several hours however the authorities managed to restarted the service.

The strangest thing that happened here it is that about 30 thousand wheels of parmesan cheese were knocked down from their ageing shelves causing considerable damage to the producers.

Bologna

It was very scary a resident reports, but there are no damages to the buildings.

Modena

In Modena city centre there have been no damages however in the town of Finale Emilia a bell tower was damaged, 35 hospital patients have been evacuated.

Reggio Emilia.

People in Reggio Emilia felt the vigorous shaking but no damages to the infrastructure were reported.

Parma.

Just the shaking were felt without any damage.

Emilia Delizia notice to our clients.

Emilia Delizia would like to reassure that despite the scary moments Bologna, Modena and Parma areas are perfectly safe. Our gourmet tours will be running as normal and planned for the coming days. Therefore do not cancel your foodie holidays as all services have restarted as normal in just hours after the quake.

=============

News about the earthquake from the BBC – Video transcript.

When a magnitude six earthquake struck northern Italy, 10% of the world’s supply of Parmigiano came crashing the ground. Cheese makers are not just facing ruined Parmesan, but potentially financial ruin. One of these rounds sells for $800. When the shelves holding the Parmesan fell, the oldest rounds fell last.

It’s these cheeses, the ones that have been maturing for up to two years that the owners are now desperately trying to sell.

“We’re trying to push the cheese into the market immediately so the Parmigiano is eaten and we avoid dumping it.”

In the city of Modena, the farmers are selling the Parmesan at a 40% discount.

They don’t appear to be having any trouble attracting buyers.

“I chose to come here in solidarity with my people and also because the price is lower.”

If you want to get a sense of what’s financially at stake for these farmers you need to look no further than the local bank. In the vault, thousands of rounds of Parmesan are held as collateral for the loans given to cheese makers.

Recently, farmers here have been struggling to survive with a hundred going out of business in the last five years. Of course, it’s not just about the money, but tradition. They’ve been making Parmesan and in the Emilia-Romagna region for 9 centuries. Zoe Conway, BBC News.

 

Traditional balsamic vinegar tour in Modena

How to visit a traditional balsamic vinegar producer in Modena – Emilia Romagna – Italy.

Emilia Delizia can take you to tour a traditional ACETAIA as we call the traditional balsamic vinegar producer here in Modena. Most visitors will be surprised by the difference between the “regular” or industrial balsamic vinegar and the DOP traditional balsamic vinegar that it is produced only in private houses in Modena and Reggio Emilia. Traditionally a batch of new balsamic vinegar was only started at the birth of a baby girl and it would become her dowry when she would marry. In the past centuries the aceto balsamico was only used within the family and sometimes given to important guests. It is said that the Duke of Modena had his own important vinegar attic, in his palace, important people would be introduced to the delights of the black gold when visiting Modena by the ducal family. As part of our tours we can take people to visit private villas and houses where this black nectar is still produced in small quantities in the most traditional way.

How Balsamic vinegar is made in Modena.

Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from initially reducing organic grape juice (must) to about 30% by just simmering the product for about 24 hours, this is to increase the sugar content in the juice. It is important to never reach the boiling point  in order to preserve the friendly bacteria that are already present in the liquid. This is done at harvest time between September and October the grape  must is obtained from Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes. To age the vinegar a set of barrel is required. A mother barrel usually the lager in a set of 4,5 or 6 increasingly smaller barrels, all made of different woods such as  acacia, ash, chestnut, mulberry, cherry.

From this moment in autumn it will take at least 12 years of painstakingly topping the evaporated must from the last but one barrel to the last one, and the repeating the sequence from the last but two to the last but one and so on until the mother barrel is then topped up with fresh grape must. No vinegar will be drawn for at least 12 years to obtain at least the “younger balsamic vinegar”.

How to use traditional balsamic vinegar.

The tradition wants that the precious black nectar obtained by the natural concentration of the flavours is used as a digestive at the end of the meal. It is best consumed on plastic or ceramic spoon as metal it is very cold and it would lower the sensory experience.

12 years old traditional balsamic vinegar.

It has more acidity than the other vintages and the sweetness is more subtle. You will soon find out that the favours of the woods are felt on different parts of your tongue and mouth. This balsamic vinegar is particularly indicated on fresher cheeses such as ricotta or mozzarella. You can also add to meat or fish dishes. The important that is used sparingly and only added the end of cooking.

The extra old vintage 24 years old traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena

The acidity decreases and the sweetness is more present, but it is not a flat sugary sensation, it is actually very complex. On your tongue you feel the taste of the blended wood tannins  such as the spiciness of juniper or the sweetness of the cherry wood. At this age it is a perfect match for aged cheese such as Parmesan or even for desserts: straberries, chocolate and ice creams.

28 YEARS OLD VINEGAR and over – Only in the Reggio Emilia province.

Only produced and marketed at this age in the Reggio Emilia. At this point the vinegar has lost a lot of its acidity and it the wood and the sweetness becomes even more accentuated, almost like a sweet complex black nectar. It is best consumed at the end of the meal as a digestive.
The province of Reggio Emilia is also a producer of Traditional balsamic vinegar due to the proximity to Modena. The tradition was brought in Reggio Emilia as many women were marring across the 2 provinces bringing their dowry with them.
During our Balsamic vinegar tour it is possible to visit Reggio Emilia producer and discover the 3 ageing typical of the area. If you want to learn more about Reggio Emilia culinary tradition please continue reading here.

 

20120512-213320.jpg

Balsamic vinegar barrels

20120512-213631.jpg

Ampules containing balsamic vinegar “Tradizionale” for tasting