Only at our Italy cooking vacations, particularly Flavors of the Real Italian Countryside and Foodie Tour of the Via Emilia: Parma and Bologna, do you get a real understanding of how cured meats are traditionally made from farm to table.
For centuries, aging cellars and curing techniques have been in practice throughout Emilia Romagna, and today, you can see it for yourself at our programs’ property, Antica Corte Pallavicina. With the simple ingredients of salt, white wine, time, and air, Antica Corte Pallavicina transforms its rare and well-cared-for pigs into the most mouthwatering thinly sliced piece of culatello you have ever tasted. Their rarity, in fact, is one reason why these slices of meat are some of the most expensive in all of Italy.
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On my most recent tradeshow to Emilia Romagna, we toured Antica Corte Pallavicina from the start of the process to the final tasting of the product, and it was fascinating. They proudly practice free-range, organic farming for all their vegetables and animals, including pigs, turkeys, ducks, chickens, geese, and cows, all of which they eventually use in their restaurant, Al Cavallino Bianco. By video, we saw how they take the meat from the upper hind of the pig and massage it with salt before putting it in a clean pig’s bladder, poke holes in the bladder, and then hang it for 12-24 months. We were allowed to go into the building where they have rows and rows of culatelli hanging for 8 months before they move them to the traditional cellar for the remainder of their drying time.
Antica Corte Pallavacina’s cellar was built in 1320 for the purpose of curing meats and cheeses, because it is believed to be the best environment especially with one window open to the Po River for fresh air and moisture circulation. Walking through the cellar was not like anything I have ever experienced, because you have dried meat hanging all around you just waiting for time to pass. We saw culatelli ordered by Prince Albert of Monaco and many world famous fashion designers.
Once the meat has dried for up to 24 months, it is then soaked in white wine, dried, and ready to be thinly sliced and savored. We were lucky to try three types of culatelli along with three types of Lambrusco after our tour. It was an extremely memorable experience and that’s even without mentioning any of the cooking classes which are included in our programs, Flavors of the Real Italian Countryside and Gastronomy in Parma and Bologna!
Read more about Emilia Romagna in our blog:
By Cory Smith
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