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Stop #11: Bazza, the cold cuts artisan @ Terrassa Padovana (Padova)

Russi-Terrassa Padovana

After our trip to Acetaia La Bonissima, our journeys went on, always dedicated to tradition: this time we went out of the borders of our region and we got to Terrassa Padovana, where the Bazza company is located.

Stemma

In an industrial zone, not very “poetic” – word and concept often used by Giovanni (called Vanni), owner of the company – it stands the small Bazza plant, a real treasure chest filled with tradition, the cold cuts artisan’s kingdom.

Salami senza aglio in asciugatura

Born in a family of generations of butchers, Vanni Bazza himself, when he was only 14 years old, started working in one of the most famous butcher shops of the area – also equipped with a laboratory where he had the chance to learn the first basics of meat processing.
After some changes in his working life, when he still was very young, he opened his own first butcher shop, then a second one, but he finally decided to close both of them because – with the arrival in town of a big supermarket – he wasn’t able to sell his products anymore.

Tagliere di salami

At that point he decided to take a big leap and do his utmost opening a laboratory where he dedicated himself only to the production of salami. As it often happens to those who have the courage to start an activity that goes “against the tide”, the first years have been very difficult, so that he thought to close also the laboratory down.
But then it made the scene an element of “lucky coincidence” that brought to a positive change and to a happy ending – as it happens in all the best fairy tales.

Rassegna stampa

Vanni met Giorgio Onesti, a famous discoverer of Italian food excellences, who tasted his product and simply asked him: “Can you make it even better?”.
At that point he realized that it was the right moment to completely revolutionize his production: he gave all the salami he had in the warehouse away, he began studying their chemistry and he restarted all over again.
The proof that that was the direction to follow came from Giorgio himself, who liked his salami so much that he started selling them in different parts of the Italian boot… when Vanni didn’t even know how to ship them!
From then on, the cold cuts artisan career has been an escalation: now his products are sold everywhere in Italy (and also in a shop in Stockholm) and everyone acknowledges their outstanding quality.

Salame Bazza

But what makes these cold cuts so unique?
The first secret surely is the specialization: Bazza’s cured pork meat factory produces almost only salami and soppressa, apart from smaller quantities of other cold cuts – both seasoned (coppa and pancetta) and raw (zampone, cotechino and bondiola). If you’re an expert in the field, you will probably have better results than those who do and know (or think to know) a little bit of everything.

Pancette arrotolate

The second secret, as we often underlined, is the choice to use first quality ingredients, selected with attention and awareness. A few elements, all of them natural, and an apparently simple processing that repeats the traditional one – but making it “modern” thanks to all the chemical knowledge that stand behind the natural cold cuts production. In other words, it’s a rediscovery of tradition through scientific means.

Salami dall'alto

Let’s consider salami as an exemple: they were the first born in Bazza’s cured pork meat factory and they still are the main product. Their only ingredients are pork meat (thigh and bacon), salt and pepper – with the addition of garlic in one of the two kinds of salami. No niters, no preservatives, no flour (grain, milk or animal), no sugar, no water – all of these are added in the industrial production.
This choice obviously requires the need to pay absolute attention to every detail, from the selection of the meat to the processing, in order to obtain an excellent product without external “help” – which is dangerous for the consumer’s health.

Salami all'aglio in asciugatura

Vanni perfectly explained us all the chemical “behind-the-scenes” of the salami production, especially regarding the bacterial formation within the processed meat. There are “bad” and “good” bacteria (the second ones are necessary for the meat fermentation and seasoning) and, without the niters’ help, everything is up to how you choose and handle meat, as well as the timing and temperatures of the different production steps.

In Bazza’s particular case, when the meat (of the rear part of the pig, less polluted by the butchery) arrives in the sterilized spaces of the laboratory, it’s kept and grinded at very low temperatures, then put into sterilized natural sausage skins, hand-tied one by one.

Salami all'aglio

The following step is the drip, which imitates the kitchens where our grandfathers used to keep the fresh salami: in the shortest time possible, so that harmful bacteria can’t grow, the very cold meat has to get to a temperature of 19 Celsius degrees. In this way, the product obviously loses weight (around 15%) because of the water loss, and the salt within the meat begins to work as a preservative.

Muffe da vicino

After it, it’s time for the drying, which corresponds to the warehousing in our grandfathers’ granary, where the salami are kept to a fresh cellar temperature and on their surface the mold begins to grow – and this is a very positive thing, contrary to the expectations, because it shows that the water went out of the sausage and that bacteria aren’t growing in the inside. Substantially, these molds are a proof of the absence of niters and of the fact that the harmful bacteria are killed in a natural way.

Muffe da vicinissimo

In the end, there’s the conservation and seasoning phase, that lasts about 90 days.

Salami in mantenimento

It is clear that a product of this kind, completely genuine and natural, needs absolute attention and devotion – which brings to an increase of the costs and to a necessarily limited production.
Vanni Bazza, driven by a huge passion for his profession and by the continuous desire to grow and improve himself, didn’t get discouraged but, on the contrary, he has been farsighted: his efforts are now completely rewarded thanks to the satisfaction of knowing that his customers are enthusiastic about his cold cuts.

Lo speck

The history of Bazza’s company is not ending here: Enrico, Vanni’s son, is studying food science and technologies in order to deepen the knowledge of those subjects with which his father dealt almost as a self-taught. He inherited his big passion and there’s no doubt about the fact that he will be able to bring that treasure chest filled with tradition straight into the future.

Salame

Paola met Vanni almost 20 years ago, and from then on she has been selling his salami at her shop La Delizia. If you want to try them and go back to the past of Italian tradition, you can as always find them in Russi (Ravenna). We are waiting for you!

 
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Pubblicato da su 12 marzo 2013 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #10: Acetaia “La Bonissima” @ Casinalbo di Formigine (Modena)

Russi-Modena

After a long winter break, our trips in the name of Italian excellences restart from one of the most famous and unique products of Emilia-Romagna: the balsamic vinegar of Modena.

Paola Franco e Donatella

In a very sunny morning, driving through narrow country streets, we reached the headquarters of Acetaia “La Bonissima” in Casinalbo di Formigine (Modena).
There we found the welcoming and very kind Franco De Pietri and his wife Donatella, owners of the company, together with Arturo, a lively puppy dog who kept us company during the whole visit.

Arturo

The company was founded by Celestino, Franco’s grandfather, who started making balsamic vinegar for his restaurant where the participants in the “Mille Miglia” used to stop to take refreshment. From then, the activity went on generation after generation, and the De Pietri family’s passion grew together with the number of barrels crammed in the attic.

Botti con nonno Celestino

To this day, indeed, the company is family run and the barrels where the vinegar takes life and matures occupy the attics of Franco and Donatella’s houses. This is not only a matter of logistical convenience, but also a necessary choice for the final quality of vinegar: the product needs to “feel” the natural seasonal interchange, because the winter cold helps the sedimentation of the impurities on the bottom of the barrels, while the summer hot facilitates the fermentation and concentration.

Solaio con tutte le batterie

Our visit at Acetaia “La Bonissima” turned out to be an interesting lesson about the fascinating world of balsamic vinegar, and we’ll hopefully be able to get at least part of what we learned across to you through this post.

Batteria del 68

First of all, there’s an important specification to be done: there are two types of this Emilian “black gold”, that is the D.O.P. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and the I.G.P. Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena).

Botti e utensili

The D.O.P. is the finest quality, which is made only using cooked must (Acetaia “La Bonissima” chooses  the Trebbiano di Spagna variety), left to mature for at least 12 years (if it goes beyond 25 years of seasoning, it’s considered an extra-aged – and in the plant we saw some barrel batches from 1964!). I used the word “batch” because the Traditional Vinegar is characterized by a dynamic ripening: every batch is composed by barrels of different sizes and woods, and a small amount of vinegar is periodically taken from each of them and moved to a slightly smaller barrel – and so on. In this way the vinegar, in addition to aging and thickening (every barrel is only covered by a dressing, so that the watery part of the product can evaporate), also absorbs the scents of the different woods through which it passes, enriching with organoleptic shades. Every year, from the last barrel of the serie, they take two of the 10/15 liters that it contains. This amount of the precious product is checked by the consortium, that evaluates it, bottles it and puts its seal on it.
Just think about this: in order to obtain 100 ml of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, it takes around 300 liters of must – that the De Pietri’s family autonomously cooks at home. This makes you understand why a D.O.P. vinegar cannot be a mass product…

Barilotto portatile

The reason why I.G.P. was born was in fact to allow a greater diffusion of the balsamic vinegar of Modena, so its criteria are less restrictive and permit a quantitatively more abundant production.

Cantina dei Sigilli

This doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality: as for everything, it depends on the raw material and on how the product is processed. The I.G.P. Balsamic Vinegars “La Bonissima” contain high quality wine vinegar and a cooked must percentage much higher than the minimum 20% required by the consortium – and this makes them naturally sweet and dark. Moreover, they’re never aged less than a year (even though the guidelines say that 60 days are sufficient), which helps their density and the richness of their flavour. Even in this case the aging takes place in wooden barrels, but it’s not dynamic like the D.O.P. one: at the end of the seasoning period, the barrel is simply emptied and the vinegar is bottled in the plant. As regards the I.G.P., so, the production is personally managed by the company, that is anyway subject every year to checks made by a certification agency which grants the origin of the raw materials, the quality of the processing and the bottling.

Sigilli

Apart from the technical issues, we were intrigued also by a couple of curiosities: Franco told us that, at every child’s birth, the family inaugurates a batch of vinegar (tradition that he obviously followed) and that, if there’s a daughter and she gets married, she gets part of her batch as a dowry. After all, the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar truly is an extremely precious good and it’s looked after with almost as much love as the one for one’s own children!

Batteria del 99

Going back to “La Bonissima” production, we can say that their serie proposes all the best that someone could offer: from the I.G.P. balsamic vinegars, aged for different periods in different kind of barrels, to the D.O.P., even extra-aged, of which they make around 1000/1500 bottles a year.

Tutta la linea di prodotti

If you love this kind of product you cannot help but try their vinegars, that will amaze you thanks to their creaminess, their scents and their sweet and intense taste. All of them are obviously genuine: there’s no trace of thickeners, colourings, preservatives or other additives.
You should try and put some drops of one of them on a fresh ricotta, on the classic Parmesan flakes or – why not – on a tasty onion frittata… you would be enraptured!

Piatto di degustazione

If you’re curious to try this vinegars for very expert people, you can as always find them at “La Delizia” in Russi (Ravenna)… we went back from the trip in Modena with the car full of these wonders! Now we are not waiting for anyone but you: come visit the shop soon!

 
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Pubblicato da su 26 febbraio 2013 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #9: Friultrota’s fish specialities @ San Daniele of Friuli (Udine)

Our last trip took us to closely discover a reality that we wanted to share with you since ages: the Friultrota company and its delicious products.

In San Daniele of Friuli, in an area that seethes with ham factories, there’s a plant that proudly stands out for its typology, showing at the entrance not a pork thigh but a modern wrought-iron fish sculpture. Its main product is known everywhere as “La Regina di San Daniele” (The Queen of San Daniele), and in the matter of celebrity it doesn’t envy at all its fellow citizen ham. That company precisely is Friultrota, which we visited for you and now we’re pleased to tell you.

The history of this company, and of the family that gave birth to it, is more than ever characterized by that healty craziness and that courage that bring to follow one’s own passions even when the wisdom says to let them go… but, at the showdown, it’s the glaring proof that the hard work, when it’s based on a deep and strong passion, fully pays off.

Giuseppe Pighin, founder of the company and father of the current owner Mauro, wasn’t a well-learned man – as it usually happened at his time – but he was extremely clever. He was curious and had a lot of innovative ideas, that he often followed even if who knew him called him crazy – until when all of them had to change their mind and give him credit for his far-sightedness.

At the beginning, the family business had nothing to do with fish farming: indeed it used to deal with gravel and concrete, and it mainly took place in a quarry located on the river Tagliamento. Little by little, by constantly digging, they formed a small lake where Giuseppe put some trouts, that he later started to raise and fish as a personal pleasure.

Since the fishes began to grow in size and number, in the Seventies the Pighin family tried to sell them on the fresh market, but they were forced to stop because their way of raising the animals – very “domestic” and regardless of the costs – brought them to lose money.

At the end of the Seventies, for a series of accidental coincidences that, in retrospect, have been providential, they met a person who was fond of fish processing and a chef who had been a pioneer in smoking salmon, and who wanted to try with trouts. Relying on their enthusiastic comments and on those of who tasted their fishes and claimed that their quality was definitely superior to the one of other trouts that they previously tried, the members of the family decided to permanently abandon the work at the quarry and to dedicate themselves to the farming and processing of trouts – choosing to follow what they were fond of, despite the uncertain perspectives. 

As complete self-taught apprentices, Giuseppe and his sons started to experiment fish preservation, following their own intuitions, without choosing paths well-trodden by others but venturing into that field in a totally empirical way. Their first “laboratory” was an aunt’s cellar, then they moved to a train carriage internally covered with stainless steel. The sons were guinea-pigs: every experiment they approved was put forward to the public.

The main processing method they used was smoking, but in that way their trouts found themselves in competition with salmon – which at that time was still of excellent quality since it wasn’t an industrial product.

In 1984, despite all the people who told them they were crazy, the Pighin’s took up the gauntlet and started the current Friultrota company. At that moment, thanks to all the experiments and collaborations previously made, they already had the necessary expertise in order to perfectly know what they wanted and how to achieve it – for exemple, their smoking cells have never been the “standard” ones suggested by the suppliers, but they were custom-made based on their needs.

This was for sure a strong point of the company, while the second fundamental one is certainly the quality that from the beginning characterized their farming: indeed it is a low-density breeding (15kg of fish per cubic meter, which is even lower than the standard of the organic production), realized without force-feeding and with good fodder, and respectful of the natural growth time of the animals.
Even the quality of water is vital, because the trouts need it to be extra pure: in this geographical area there luckily is resurgence water, which is taken from the river Tagliamento with a system of canals and goes straight to the farming.

The fish is then fished with non-invasive methods (using a small net which is casted into the water when needed) around two or three times a week, and afterwards it’s immediately butchered in special facilities located next to the lakes, so that it can arrive very soon and already gutted in the close plant where it’s going to be processed.

A vital thing, in this series of steps from the fishing to the final processing, is the speed – less time passes from the first step to the last one, more the fat of the fish maintains its quality and better will be the resulting product. Moreover, in the processing it’s always observed the cold chain: all the operations – cutting, boning, salting, possible spicing – are hand-made in rooms where the temperature doesn’t exceed 12/14 Celsius degrees.

The timing of the different steps, like for exemple the salting or the smoking, aren’t fixed but they change based on the characteristics of fish, like the size or the quantity of fat – this means that every detail is carefully assessed and supervised by staff people provided with a huge experience about. The business is therefore a completely artisan one, so the processing of fish requires around 4/5 days (on the contrary, the industrial one is executed in 10/12 hours). Moreover, as a choice Friultrota doesn’t use colouring nor preservatives… and the final quality of the product fully testifies that all of this attention makes a difference!

In the course of time, for market requirements they included also other kinds of products, such as smoked salmon and chicken breast, trout eggs, herring… always with an innovative point of view. This last kind of fish, for exemple, is processed salting and smoking it less than the classic one (that’s why it’s been called “Aringa Sciocca” – “Bland herring”), and it’s been released from tradition – which consigned its use in the Easter period – making it a product suitable all year long, even during summer – matched, for exemple, with rocket and green apples.

Friultrota series offer a very wide choice of products, for people who love good fish and at the same time love the convenience of ready-for-use dishes – indeed their products are sold already ready for eating them, even if they can be further elaborated (maybe using the recipes that can be found on their website) by whom would like to create delicious dishes.

Their fishes have good full taste, they can be easily distinguished, some are stronger while other more mellow, with such a soft consistency that it melts in your mouth, and their excellence is now multi-awarded.

At this point, all you can do is try them… you can find them at the shop La Delizia, in Russi (Ravenna), so we wait for you!

 
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Pubblicato da su 26 ottobre 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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