When travelling to a new destination, you probably buy souvenirs to remind you of the place. Well, when it comes to Italy the best souvenirs are their traditional ingredients. Italy is also known to have some of the best cities in the world for food. You may find them in your local supermarket but you can bet they don’t have the same taste. Admit it – you love Italian food. If you want to visit Italy to try traditional dishes then you should continue reading this article, we will present the three ingredients you must buy while in Italy.
Here are our favorite ingredients: Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Parma ham. They will make you feel like you’re still in Italy when you will use them to prepare dishes at home.
3 Ingredients You Should Definitely Buy When Visiting Italy
Why should you buy Parmigiano Reggiano? Well, it’s the King of Cheeses, and it’s the most recognised food product of the Italian Peninsula. Chefs worldwide love its unique taste, and use it as the secret ingredient for many dishes. If you want to buy the best Parmigiano Reggiano you should book a tour that takes you to Parma, Modena, and Reggio Emilia to visit Parmesan dairies. The production of parmesan in these places dates back to the 1200s when the Benedictine monks made this type of cheese to preserve milk. If you are a gourmand, a private walking tour is the best trip for you because it will introduce you to local artisanal products and present you traditional dairies.
Buying Parmigiano Reggiano is an experience on itself, so do not head to the first supermarket, and take the first piece you see on the shelf, visit a dairy, or more dairies, and see how it’s made. There’s nothing similar to seeing the raw milk sitting in vats, cauldrons with thousands of kg of milk mixed with fat. You will witness the entire process, you will see how the compound is acidified, how the rennet is added, and how the milk transforms into a yogurt similar substance.
Do you know how much milk is used to obtain around 250 kilos of parmesan cheese? The answer is 1000 kilos! But this is not the final product, during the aging stage some of the weight is lost, and the final product will be around 37 kg. While at the diary you can taste the cheese at different ages, something you cannot do at the supermarket. You will definitely appreciate the distinctive flavor authentic Parmigiano Reggiano has, and after seeing how it’s produced, you will definitely understand why it has respect among gourmets.
If you want to take advantage of the ultimate indulgence, you should pair 48-month aged parmesan with a few drops of luscious and thick balsamic vinegar.
While in Modena and Reggio Emilia, you should also visit a traditional ACETAIA to see what’s the difference between producing industrial balsamic vinegar and traditional one. If you love to eat, you definitely tried a dish you regularly eat, but it had a different, better taste. And instead of having a good dish, you enjoyed the most flavorful one you have ever tried. The dish was so great it refuses description, and you asked yourself what secret ingredient the chef may have used. Well, we know it, it’s vintage wine or balsamic vinegar!
What starts as a sweet and sour heavy shiny syrup, deepens into multiple layers of flavor that included aromas of cooked fruit, wood, and a soft line of acidity. What descriptors can we use for it? Tobacco, stewed cherries, dried fruits, cedar chest and more, something hard to describe, something mysterious that makes you want another drop.
Why is it so good? It takes at least 12 years for it to achieve its unique characteristics, and no balsamic vinegar will be drawn before if you want its quality to be flawless. If you decide to buy a bottle of 12 years old traditional balsamic vinegar, you can use it together with cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, or with fish, and meat dishes. If you prefer the extra old vintage 24 years old one then you have a very complex ingredient, and you can pair it with Parmesan and desserts like ice cream, chocolate, and even fruits.
Prosciutto di Parma
One of the best regions for gourmands in Italy are Reggio Emilia because it produces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, authentic Balsamic Vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma. During your tour, you should visit the first charcuterie museum in Italy, MUSA which presents you with the various stages of processing meat. Emilia Delizia recommends taking advantage of the visit to taste Parma ham and to participate in social themed gatherings and gastronomic workshops.
This ham is so important for Italy, a Consortium of Prosciutto di Parma was established to control the production process. It all starts with the choice of pigs; they have to be certified by the Consortium and raised according to strict regulations. Every piece of ham is salted under the supervision of a mastero Salvatore, the skin is covered with humid sea salt, and the muscular part is covered with dry salt. After 12 months of ageing and different treatments, an inspector from the Consortium verifies each piece.
Why is it called the King of Hams? The process is 100% natural, only the time, air and salt influence its taste and quality. The result – a pink ham in the lean part, white in the fat, perfectly balanced between salty and sweet with a fragrant aroma. It’s delicate, sweet and fruity, but in a gentle way.
Do not remove the fat part of the slice when you taste it, it’s the part that makes the Parma ham unique in the world. The fat part is the one that carries the distinct flavor of the Prosciutto. You can pair it with breadsticks, fresh cheese like buratta and mozzarella, and even with melon.
Here are the three ingredients you should take as souvenirs from Italy. And don’t forget to enjoy the tour because it will uncover many other secret ingredients for your inner gourmand.
Take a look at this article to learn more about the best places to visit in Italy.