Culatello the king of cured meats – how to visit the producers in Italy.
Culatello is an Italian cold cut obtained form the best part of the pig: the back legs. The main differences between Parma ham and culatello are the followings: area of production, and the technique of curing the meats..
Culatello and its area of production – Parma province.
This ham is produced north of Parma on the flat lands of Pianura Padana. The huge flat lands that stretch from the Alps to the Apennini mountains in Italy, The PDO area of production is tiny making this product unique, highly sought after and luxurious, notably the towns of production are Busseto, Polesine Parmense, Zibello, Soragna, Roccabianca, San Secondo, Sissa and Colorno. Here the climate is much more humid and foggy than anywhere else in the area. Because of this characteristics it would be impossible to cure the ham on the bone as we would do for the Parma ham. Therefore with culatello the bone is removed to obtain 2 cuts, the main one culatello (literally the little ass) and the fiocchetto which is the inner muscle of the leg. The ingredients are just freshly slaughtered meat, salt and pepper.
How culatello is cured – the brick cellars.
Culatello requires humid brick cellars that are in the basement of buildings. The ham is then placed in a natural casing (pig bladder), tied and rubbed with salt and pepper only, also the meat need to reach the producer quickly from the moment of the slaughter to keep the bacterial load low, which helps to cure the meat without the use of artificial preservatives. Culatello will spend at least 12 months in these traditional cellars before being inspected by the experts of the consortium of Culatello di Zibello. The product is examined with a wooden mallet checking for potential defects.
Parma ham VS Culatello of Zibello.
Is one better than the other? Well there will be a lot of debate if we say so. In short they are 2 different produces. Parma ham has a very sweet taste and it is cured with very little salt however it is produced on a larger scale with a larger output while still maintaining the consortium high quality. Culatello remains a niche gourmet product still made by a handful producers with methods that track back to their grand fathers or sometimes their grand grand fathers. Culatello is also more difficult to obtain and it is more labour intensive than Parma ham. Finally culatello has a more elegant, fragrant, structured and prolonged flavour than Parma ham. It is drier in texture and more savoury and the taste keeps flowing as you chew it.
The final product – how to prepare it.
When finally becomes the so acclaimed gourmet products (it can cost up to 70 euros a kg), the meats are bright red with nice marbling of fat, which enhance the delicate savoury taste. In order to eat the ham, you will need to prepare it. You will need to remove the strings used to tie it, and soak it in wine for a few hours. This will help to remove easily the bladder . Once this is done you will have to slice it very thinly. A slicing machine gives the best results.
How to eat Culatello di Zibello.
Culatello it is a great appetiser, and it would go with a glass of Fortana del Taro wine, or Malvasia and why not with a nice glass or Lambrusco. As part of your appetiser dish you can also add some shaving of Parmesan and few drops of balsamic vinegar of Modena or Reggio Emilia.
How to visit a culatello producers in Parma.
Emilia Delizia can organise a culatello English guided tour, from Parma as part of our gourmet tours in Italy. We can pick you up from your hotel or meet you at a designated location. Our tours will always include a detailed visit and a generous final tasting. Don’t forget that this experience can be mixed with the Parmesan production, wine tours and balsamic vinegar production and cookery experiences.
Culatello making classes – Culinary experiences in Parma
For those interested in a hands on approach, we organise culatello ham curing techniques. Our highly trained master curer will show you how the make the precious ham. The typical class will last one morning and the participants will learn how to prepare, cure, and tie the meat according the ancient Italian tradition. Your product will be aged in the cellars and it can be sent to you when it is ready.
Cualtello tasting visits with cycling along the Po’ River.
The Po’ river has a lot to offer, in terms of gastronomic adventures that can be combined with cycling tours departing from Parma with destination Cremona, of course with the use of river boats. The Po’ also has a network of cycling paths touching many producers of culatello.
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My boyfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Tour, which included stops at producers of cheese, balsamic vinegar and cured meat. Paolo was an amazing tour guide – he's extremely knowledgeable, kind and a great communicator. We learned so much! It was really nice to be in a smaller group and most of the producers we visited were small so we were able to get a close up view of the processes. We'd highly recommend Emilia Delizia as this tour was truly authentic and a highlight of our trip!
thank you for the kind review
The tour of the Parmesan Reggiano cheese dairy, Balsamic Vinegar farm, the Parma ham and lunch at the organic vineyard was thoroughly enjoyed by our family of 4. Paolo was a gracious and knowledgeable host for the day and provided us with insights to the production of the cheese and balsamic vinegar which was enhanced due to his chemistry background. We would thoroughly recommend this tour to those interested in the specialities produced in the Modena region.
We had a wonderful tour, best part about visiting the Modena region!
The tour was perfect. I think Paolo would be a splendid ambassador for Italy in the EU. He knows how excellent Italian food and eating together can solve many major problems, and can stop aggressive behavior. Not the hunt for more money, but the well being of family and friends counts. Paolo shows us the products of ages of civilization and he did this like an artist. So after the tour we really love Italia more and we'll come back. We will call you Paolo, Thanks!
Following two tours with your guides this week I would like to express my thanks for some wonderful experiences.
Monday we did the tour of cheese making, balsamic and Salami which was very good and the guide Paolo was very knowledgeable.
The truffle hunt tour today was absolutely amazing, the guide Stefano is pure gold and the tour was built with much thought. Our best experience so far, by far.
Looking forward to more tours and fun next time we are in Italy.
The group (and me) was VERY satisfied. We really enjoyed the Parmegiano Regiano which was interesting and we got to buy some delicate and cheap cheese, the same with the balsamico. The Ferrari driving was off course an experience for life. The Winery lunch felt very genuine and the people there was really welcoming and nice people. The genuine feeling there was however the big plus for us.
Paolo was excellent as our guide. He also felt very genuine. He did not talk just for the sake of talking, but when he had something to say he did it in a respectful and nice way. Everyone in the group really liked him.
I wanted to let you know what a great day we had this past Friday on our tour with Jacamo. (Probably not spelling it right) He was very nice and explained everything to us. It sure gives you a new appreciation when you are slicing cheese. 🙂 Our tour ended with him taking us to the vineyard for a tour and lunch and there, Paolo, the owner could not have been more nicer. It was a perfect ending.
Please let Jacamo know what a great job he did and how much we really appreciated it and his knowledge
The website is well structured and we received a prompt answer to all questions. Gabriele supported us with all information we needed and the organization before the trip was excellent.
We had an air conditioned van, which was very relaxing through the whole tour. The first stop was the parmigiano production, which was very impressive and interesting. We could learn and especially see all the different steps and even taste the various aged parmigiano. The second step was the balsamic vinegar tasting. Finally the meat part was interesting in the museum but we hoped that we also could see more about the production and their work, but the tasting was delicious. In overall we had a very informative and well accommodated half day with our guide
It was great experience! We visited Parmesan cheese production, Balsamic vinegar farm, Ham museum and Farmer's lunch. Our guide gave us a detailed explanation, we were very satisfied. An excellent tour for a reasonable price, highly recommended.
Nous sommes une famille de cinq et nous avons adoré notre expérience. Les trois endroits étaient choisis judicieusement. Notre guide était très généreuse et super gentille. Nous recommandons ce tour ( parmesan, vinaigre balsamique et jambon de parme).