Prosciutto, Balsamic, Parmigiano; You Already Know Emilia Romagna #ItalianFWT

#ItalianFWT Italian Food Wine & Travel: Emilia Romagna
This month, our #ItalianFWT group is exploring Emilia Romagna.  Make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post and check out my fellow bloggers’ posts.

You Already Know Emilia Romagna
You already know a lot about Emilia-Romagna, and you may not even realize it!  Do you have balsamic vinegar in your kitchen?  Ever had Parmigiano Reggiano cheese? Surely you’ve tried Prosciutto di Parma! All originated in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and the authentic versions of these products are still only made in this region.

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You’re already familiar with many of the products of Emilia-Romagna

Other products from the region may be familiar, but may not have such a good reputation. Ever hear of Riunite, that sweet bubbly wine from Italy? How about bologna, ever eat that lunchmeat as a kid?  These products may not have the same great reputation, but they have interesting links to a source in Emilia-Romagna.

Exploring Emilia Romagna Through Wine and Food
After learning a bit about each of these products, we’ll enjoy them all together at Apertivo time. Let’s dig in!

Prosciutto di Parma
There are lots of hams produced throughout Europe, but Prosciutto di Parma must meet very specific requirements including the breed of pig and the creation of the ham.  Prosciutto di Parma can only include the following ingredients and nothing else: pork, Italian sea salt, air and time. No preservatives, fillers, etc…  Italian regulations require at least 300 days of aging, but FDA requires 100 more days, so Prosciutto di Parma purchased in the US has been aged at least 400 days.

Prosciutto di Parma is a DOP protected item, so only officially inspected hams can carry that name.  In fact, a crown is branded into every single ham made.  At your local shop, ask to see the crown on the ham!

Prosciutto di Parma: look for the crown branded into the ham!

Prosciutto di Parma: look for the crown branded into the ham!

Of course, Prosciutto di Parma is perfect as an antipasto to start your meal.  Even though it’s cured in salt, it shouldn’t be too salty. Also, fat conscious Americans may be tempted to remove the edge of fat on the slice, but don’t!  It’s an essential part of the rich flavor. We love wrapping a slice of Prosciutto around a grissini breadstick, but only if we can find something locally made.  Otherwise, a cracker or focaccia or baguette complements the ham nicely.

Slices of prosciutto

Slices of prosciutto

18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Balsamic vinegar is a product most cooks know well.  Guess what?  It’s from Modena in Emilia Romagna. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP is the pinnacle of Balsamic vinegars. Artisanal, yes.  It’s just too expensive to be throwing around the kitchen! If you have an extra $100 laying around and you pick up a 2 oz. bottle, I’ll be happy to come over and help you sample it.

One step down in rarity and price is Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP.  This is the balsamic vinegar most of us know.  You can find it at a wide variety of prices and qualities, from your grocery store to specialty shops.  You need to do your homework to find one worthy of tasting all on its own, and not just for glaze, cooking or salad dressing. In Minneapolis, we have Vinaigrette, a local shop who imports from a small family cooperative near Modena. The Balsamic vinegar is aged for 18 years and is well worth $25 for a 375ml bottle.

Look for a high quality aged Balsamic (on the left).

Look for a high quality aged Balsamic (on the left).

The flavor is a wonderful juxtaposition of tart and sweet, and is very rich.  Beyond dipping your Parmigiano Reggiano, it makes a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream with strawberries.  Give it a try during fresh strawberry season!

Parmigiano Reggiano PDO
PDO and DOP both refer to protected origin food products. You can learn everything you ever want to know about Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from the Consortium. Like all PDO or DOP products, there are strict rules for making, aging (at least 12 months) and every single wheel is sampled to ensure it will deliver the quality it should. Don’t settle for any substitutes, go for the real thing.  At your tasting, chunk off pieces of cheese, dip them in the Balsamic Vinegar and enjoy.

Kelsey, our local cheesemonger and a wheel of real Parmigiano-Reggiano

Kelsey, our local cheesemonger and a wheel of real Parmigiano-Reggiano

Make sure you taste the cheese by itself, and then try dipping some in your Balsamic Vinegar. Lots of flavor and texture in one small bite!

Chunks of real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are a treat

Chunks of real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are a treat

Mortadella Bologna IGP
I had to laugh when I visited the Mortadella Bologna IGP website.  Just like our Minnesota State fair Princess Kay of the Milky Way (the dairy princess), the Mortadella Consorzio has a Mortadella Signora! There she is on the website, posing with a nice Mortadella.

You can try your Mortadella sliced thinly or cubed.  Based on a suggestion from Lidia Bastianich in Vino Italiano, I had mine sliced thick.  After getting it home, I briefly grilled half, then cubed both types.  Grate some fresh horseradish on top and you’re all set.

I grew up in Elyria Ohio, where “bologna” was our standard lunchmeat, and a fried bologna sandwich was a treat. Tasting real Mortadella was both a great memory from childhood and a revelation for the taste of the real deal.  Real Mortadella is flavored with intriguing herbs, an occasional peppercorn, pistachio, and high quality pork fat.  It’s what American bologna dreams of what it could be in a future karma filled life!

Not your childhood bologna, Mortadella is a very flavorful sausage

Not your childhood bologna, Mortadella is equally enjoyable lightly grilled or just by itself. Top with grated fresh horseradish!

Lambrusco Secco (dry) DOC & IGT
When it comes to wine, you may have heard of Riunite, a sweet bubbly Lambrusco from Italy, which was wildly popular in the U.S. in the 70’s. I remember hearing the commercials when I was a kid “Riunite on Ice, That’s Nice!”.

Put that out of your mind.  Lambrusco Secco is fruity and sparkling, but it is absolutely dry.  It’s a real treat with the foods in our spread, and will be most welcome at our house especially in the summer.  Great with a bit of a chill it is so refreshing!

Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco Cleto Chiarli e Figli ($18 locally)
Eye: Clear, candy red, bright, frizzante.  Nice super fine bubbles
Nose: Fresh red fruit, raspberries, but something just a bit earthy in the background.
Mouth: Fresh bright red fruit, fizzy, fruity, tart.  Very nice!  Would be great in the summer with a bit of a chill.

The best real Lambrusco is bright, dry, bubbly and very refreshing

The best real Lambrusco is bright, dry, bubbly and very refreshing

Labrusca Lini 910 Bianco ($18 locally)
White Lambrusco may be a bit harder to find, but it’s well worth looking.
Eye: clear, warm rich yellow, frizzante fine bubbles
Nose: ripe cooked pears, straw, yeasty
Mouth: Nice frizzante fizz in there.  Very refreshing tart flavor, mouthwatering.  Very fruity, but dry.

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White Lambrusco is also very refreshing, light and bubbly

Emilia Romagna Antipasti at Apertivo Time
Finally!  It’s time to try all these great products together, as they are meant to be.

Shopping list for your Emilia-Romagna Celebration

Note: Make sure you find the real products.  Don’t settle for domestic versions until you’ve had a chance to compare them to the real thing.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma DOP
  • 4 oz. Mortadella Bologna IGP either thinly sliced or thick sliced then cubed. Try grilling some of the Mortadella, too!
  • 8 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese
  • 1 Tbsp good quality aged Balsamic Vinegar IGT
  • Fresh horseradish to grate over the Mortadella
  • Grissini (breadsticks) or high quality bread or crackers
  • 1 bottle Lambrusco Rosso Secco DOC
  • 1 bottle Lambrusco Bianco (if you can find one) IGT

Minneapolis Sources
Foods: Vinaigrette, Broders Cucina, Jerry’s Foods, Surdyk’s Deli
Wines: South Lyndale Liquors, Sunfish Cellars

Italian Food Wine & Travel: Emilia Romagna
Join our other bloggers and their featured articles this month on Emilia Romagna:
Vino Travels – Pignoletto from Colli Bolognese & Emilia Romagna Delights
Cooking Chat – Wine Pairing for Bolognese Sauce Recipe
Curious Appetite – Food and Community in the Emilia Romagna
Flavourful Tuscany – Emilia Romagna: lifestyle of joyful quality
Enoflyz Wine Blog – A Taste of Emilia Romagna
The Palladian Traveler – Loving Romagna with Knife, Fork and Camera

Join us next month on February 7th as we travel to one of the most famous regions of Italy, Tuscany!  For additional Italian related blogs of food, wine and travel throughout the month stay tuned to #ItalianFWT.  Ciao ciao!

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Comments
4 Responses to “Prosciutto, Balsamic, Parmigiano; You Already Know Emilia Romagna #ItalianFWT”
  1. THANK YOU for mentioning Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco Cleto Chiarli e Figli – such an under-sung sparkler! Salute!

    • Nice, sparkling dry Lambrusco was my favorite find in exploring Emilia Romagna. We especially enjoyed the Cleto Chiarli e Figli Lambrusco! We love having a dry red sparkling wine in our repertoire.

  2. Great post Jeff! Have I told you, you’re my food photography hero? Always love your photos! i dig how you put together an E-R sampler. Funny I almost purchased the same Lambrusco Rosso, I didn’t because I was told it was “sweeter” than the one I purchased. I’ll have to give it a try!

    • Thanks, Martin. The photos are part of the fun for me. Cook, food stylist, photographer, and eater all rolled into one! We had the same approach in mind. Fun to know that great food doesn’t always required hours in the kitchen!

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