An Italian Food Tour in Bologna

Published Date Author: , June 17th, 2013

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on the go again, this time in Italy. She has graciously allowed us to republish her travel blogs. Enjoy!

Parmegiano Cheese - DollyStill trying to catch up with all I want to tell you about.

My friend and I left Zurich on Thursday, and finally made it back to Italy. This time our stop was in Bologna. I had never been to Bologna before. To spend any time, so this was another new city to visit. I was disappointed that Rick Steve’s doesn’t cover Bologna in his guide books, as we found it to be a delightful city. There are museums, old towers, churches, beautiful parks, a university. We really enjoyed our stay there.

I had chosen Bologna for our stay, as I had read about a food tasting tour that sounded great to me, so we had made reservations for this tour for Friday.

As expected, Alessandro, our guide for the day, had his driver pick us up at 0700 on Friday, as our first stop was to be at a factory that makes Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese. Cheese making takes place early in the morning, so we had to be early to see this. Of course, we got a tour of the small factory, got to see the cheeses being made and lifted out of their huge cooking vats.

Then we saw each process of the product, from being lifted out of the vats, to being placed in molds; several days later being processed in a salt water bath, finally being placed onto shelves to finish aging. This cheese now has to age at least a year. The cheeses are turned every ten days, and the outside of the cheeses are brushed to remove any oil or fat that has oozed out during the curing stage.

Each step of the process is highly regulated, or the cheese cannot be stamped and approved by the Consortium and give the D.O.P. approval. This regulation starts with the cows that produce the milk for the cheese. The Consortium says what kind of feed must be given to the cattle, and the cows cannot be given any antibiotics.

We got to taste some cheese, with focaccia bread and some very good Lambrusco wine… don’t scoff, now. Lambrusco does not have a very good reputation in the United States, but here where the Lambrusco grapes grow, and are made into a sparkling red wine, it is delicious.

Then we were off to another small factory in Modena. This one make balsamic vinegar. This was other very interesting lesson, followed by a tasting. Balsamico has to age at least 12 years to be certified, again by a Consortium.

The process starts with the producers crushing Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes, then letting it ferment and age in wooden barrels. Some of the balsamico we tasted was 35 years old, thick as molasses and ever so good…..also, ever so expensive. For our tasting, we had fresh ricotta with balsamico on it, also vanilla gelato with balsamico.

Then we were on to the next stop, this time a prosciutto factory. Once again, prosciutto is also regulated by a consortium so that it can be labeled Prosciutto of Modena, D.O.P. the Consortium regulates how the pigs are fed and raised, and each step of the aging process. This little factory that we visited has been in the same family for seven generations, now being run by a fine little lady, about 70 years old.

The hind legs of the pigs are brought here, weighed, then covered with sea salt and put into cold storage for 10 days. They are then brought out, the salt is all wiped away, and new salt is applied. Back into another cold storage for another 10 days. This time the salt is wiped away, and the legs are hung in an area that is cool, but not refrigerated. The legs then go through the aging process. They are aged at least one year.

Finally, we went to lunch..we had already had tastings at all the factories. But it was after 1:00 p.m., so we went to an organic farm and winery for lunch. OMG!

This lunch went on and on…first, a salad of fresh butter lettuce, apples and almonds, then a pasta, then another pasta, and another. And the wine flowed freely, too. By this time, I was so full I cold hardly move, and out comes a main dish of chicken and roasted vegetables. This was followed by dessert, which, fortunately, was 3 different platters of all kinds of fruits. The berries were my favorite. As full as I was, I just had to eat some of these.

Eventually, we made it back to our hotel, where I fell into a food-wine-induced stupor. About 2 hours later, we got up, and cleaned up, ventured out of the hotel, but neither of us wanted any food or drink. We wanted to go up to the park, where there was to be a jazz session that evening.

We had met a very nice couple from Edinburgh, Scotland, Desmond (Dez) and his wife, Bridget, on the food tour. They were staying near where we were staying, so we met up again that evening in Bologna to listen to jazz in the park.

That day was so fantastic. If you get a chance to be anywhere near Bologna, I encourage you to check this out – http://www.italiandays.it. This is a small operation, run by Alessandro and his German girlfriend, Barbara. Alessandro really knows his stuff, and he has a fantastic sense of humor.

I am so glad we did that, although I really didn’t feel like eating again till about lunch time the following day!

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