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Nice Legs! by Tim & NaT HARRIS Acooknotmad.com

J

ust as we finished up our delicious lunch at Ristorante Cocchi, which included fried zucchini blossoms filled with vegetables and mozzarella, sardines and braised stuffed veal breast, our guide for the afternoon, Mirca, arrived to whisk us away to the Parma hillside. Nestled in its own microclimate, where the dry winds blow down from the Apennines carrying the soft perfume of pine, olive and chestnut groves, sits the San Pietro Prosciutteria, perfect for the dry curing of their Prosciutto di Parma. We pulled into the San Pietro production facility where we were greeted by one of the owners, Annalisa Sassi, and shown into their conference room. She briefed us about what we would be seeing and explained a little of the history of making prosciutto and the San Pietro company. Producing around 300,000 legs of ham per year this is not a small operation (in fact, it’s the largest in Parma) and San Pietro is known as having the highest quality facility and finished product.

As Annalisa continued, I was completely distracted by the largest and most beautiful slicer I have ever seen. Equipment like this really excites me, and as she showed me how it could swivel and adjust, I imagined cutting perfect slices of factory fresh Prosciutto so thin the flavour would have nowhere to hide. With our briefing behind us, we donned our factory apparel of booties, caps and lab coats, and were ushered onto the production floor. We watched as refrigerated trailers of pig legs were unloaded and racked up to be inspected for their quality. The pig legs must meet some high criteria before they are allowed to enter into the long process of becoming Prosciutto di Parma. This includes having the proper amount of fat around the leg, no cracking or breaks in the skin and no unusual marbling that would affect the outcome of the finished product. After inspection, the legs are cleaned and sent through a machine that massages them in preparation for their first salting.

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