This post is authored by Kendall College student Kim Haines
We departed for Modena early this morning to go to the Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano around 5:30 am (ish). Parmigiano Reggiano is a major product in the Italian cuisine. We arrived early, of course, as Marco is the Superman of all bus drivers. We waited in anticipation to learn the secret steps of making this well-known cheese. The tour began with a costume change. Please, put on this coat and booties! The Italian woman looked at me and said, “Is this fashionable enough for you?” Si?
We then moved into the corridor in which we were shown the production of cheese. Such a production took place behind a glass-plated windows. Even though we were completely covered, from head to toe) for an apocalypse, we were only allowed to watch in another room. This was to prevent biological cross contamination. And, who was the master in charger, making the cheese, behind the glass window? Hold onto your hats, ladies gentlemen, here comes the Italian George Clooney of cheese-making chefs. Holy Cow!
This factory produces 104 wheels of cheese everyday. The cows produce less milk in the summer, because the cooler weather is best. The cows produce about 2,200 liters of milk. In order to produce Parmigiano Reggiano, the process is as follows: warm the milk, break the milk, and create the curd and whey. This is all produced in copper cauldrons within linen cloths.
It takes 12 months of a quite nourishing production. Three months less, (nine months), would be the equivalent in producing a baby. This creates an incredible analogy for the Italians, because the cheese is their baby. Bambino! Looking through these large glass windows, essentially, gave us the feeling of being in a hospital. Imagine looking in for the first time at your newborn baby, but there is a wheel of cheese instead of a human. Sounds crazy? Well, most people might prefer a large wheel of cheese over a screaming baby.
Inside of the factory held a room that was filled with a ton of good-looking Italians fellas separating the curd and whey. I will take the front row please. It was hard to focus and pay attention on the tour after George Clooney came out of the wood-works. This factory was truly the spa of cheese, as the wheels are cooled in baths and then humidified in saunas.
The factory had suffered from a huge earthquake a few years back, causing a millions worth of damage. Therefore, there are pictures displayed around the building with the damaged shelves of cheese. They were able to repair the factory and it is now up and running, better than ever.
You can’t have cheese without balsamic vinegar, so we made our way to the Borgo del Balsamico to learn the secrets of the preparation of balsamic vinegar followed by a sweet and savory tasting.
Each bottle of vinegar ranged from 50 euros to 200 euros. Mamma mia! You better be prepared to use each droplet carefully and thoughtfully. Perhaps, back to back dinner parties may be a solution to this pricey purchase.
The Borgo del Balsamico was located in a beautiful Tuscan house that was gated in a rural community. The house sat on a garden of flowers, shrubs, palm trees, pups, and chickens. The family named their dog after Jacky O’Nassis. Jacky meet Jacky. I guess that it is a good thing that they somewhat support the American government. Viva l’America!
We were then served the trinity of balsamic food combinations. First this incredibly fresh ricotta came out and it was served with the gold balsamic vinegar. Next, they served pancetta on bread with the silver balsamic vinegar. And, lastly they served fresh vanilla ice cream with the orange label vinegar. Delicioso.
After the tasting, we headed back onto the bus to make our way back to the city of Florence. We were all pretty excited, as this was our very first free day to roam the city streets in search of freedom, Italian entertainment, and plenty of gelato. Oh, and did I mention shopping?
Wish you were here,
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