As a food fan, it will be impossible for Ms. Buddha and I to not go to Parma given that we were staying so close in Bologna and have a car. Parma is known for their food products and frankly, most of the food production arose because of people trying to find methods to keep food edible than for the want of making something new, but the great thing is that out of these necessities, delicious new foods will be invented! Enter the Parma Ham – which after our Tour at the Conti factory – we got to appreciate the rigorous testing process it goes through to make proper Parma Ham and the fact that it only uses the meat, salt and pretty much nothing but drying.
The factory itself is actually located almost in the middle of no-where – and the drive there was actually quite fun – although a bit long.
Once there, we were greeted by the daughter of the family (who spoke absolutely perfect English) and there were only 4 people (incl us) during our timeslot for the tour – we were slightly late (which was embarrassing).
First thing we noticed was the Parma ham smell – which is strong but yet so delicious! We were shown the initial phase and process of how the Parma ham are made – which is basically the moment the meat comes in, they cover it in salt and then let it air dry. A lot of the process is now done indoors in order to be more hygienic, but otherwise, the process has not changed (they still open the windows to let more natural air in from time to time.
Through the process, the hams actually loses a tremendous amount of water – and as it dries, they move it from one storage to the next.
In terms of testing for quality – almost every ham is checked by a certified personel, and that person uses a special tool which is a bone that sticks into the flesh and comes out in order for the inspector to smell it – we had a try with the tool as well – it was pretty cool. Only once they pass the inspection will the ham get the stamp of approval (the “Parma” with the crown).
Once we were done touring the factory, we were taken to another area where we were able to sample different ages of the ham – Ms. Buddha absolutely loved it! And because of the location – I think the ham just tasted even better!