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Stop #15: The poetry of Scaldaferro’s nougat @ Dolo (Venezia)

Russi-DoloSome months passed after the last Travelling Delights’ trip… Summer has gone and, at least theoretically, it has made the way for Autumn. From here to Christmas, it’s a short step: isn’t it the best moment to taste its flavors in advance? So here we are, ready to tell you the behind the scenes of Scaldaferro‘s torrone sweet (nougat), a one-of-a-kind product! Follow us and discover this wonder…

Scaldaferro insegnaThis time, more than ever, we delved into a small apart world, which smelled of honey and roasted almonds, where tradition and innovation walk hand in hand to create sweets… and it would be reductive to define them delicious.

Foto nonno Scaldaferro e Pietro
But let’s start from the beginning: after our early arrival to the nougat factory, the very kind Urania welcomes us and diplomatically tells us that they were waiting for us at least an hour later… until that time, the nougat production won’t be starting.
Here we learn the first lesson: the long cooking times of this special product aren’t only bragged about, but they are strictly respected. Of course, of the ten hours of cooking needed, they can’t bypass one only because we arrived in advance.
The torrone sweet has its needs, and in this small company they are supported from first to last. Just think of this: Pietro, the member of Scaldaferro’s family who currently runs the company, moves to the plant and lives there for the whole production period – which means months – so that he can personally verify every single detail of it.

Albumi che si montanoSo his work starts every day around 3 a.m., measuring the temperature and humidity of the air, then preparing the mixtures that will fill the eight copper pots, one after the other. The machines, some of which come from the early years of ‘900, whip more or less 50 egg whites together with honey, confectioner’s sugar and Bourbon vanilla. Pietro supervises, changing the speed of the whisks or adjusting the heat of the pots, for the thirteen minutes of the whipping and the following hours of cooking.

Impasti in diverse fasi di cotturaAt some point in the morning, the other employées of the small family company join him: there are three men who help preparing the mixtures, which is a job that needs physical strenght, and around ten women who – hear ye – make the final products by hand, shaping the nougat in wads, pinnacles or small cakes depending on the needs and giving life to unique creations, each of which is different from the others.

Collage sciroppoJust before the end of the cooking of the mixtures, which already have a strong personality thanks to the different kinds of honey in them, they add another handful of vanilla, then a waterfall of honey and sugar syrup, that will help the nougat crystallize at its best, and finally the almonds, which will be the 55% of the final product. These are roasted in advance and then kept in jute sacks, that allow them to perspire their humidity but maintain the heat – it’s important that, when they are added to the mixture, they are at its same temperature – so that the egg whites won’t un-whip.

Collage aggiunta mandorleAfter amalgamating the mixture so that it equally covers all the almonds, it is taken away in small amounts and shared among the women who work it when it still has a temperature of 60/65°C. The temperature is high and the hands are reddened, but there isn’t an alternative: if you leave the mixture out of the pot for just a few minutes, it completely solidifies and becomes useless.
The following step is the wrapping, which happens when the nougat is still warm in order to maintain its crispness, but not before a final check of the wads’ shape and of possible unexpected contents.

Fiocchi di torrone fatti a manoThe raw materials used for this torrone sweet deserve a small but necessary parenthesis: Pietro himself tracks down the most unusual and rare kinds of honey, like the “mascena” rose or medlar honey, he chooses the best nuts, like the  IGP Piedmont hazelnut or the DOP Bronte pistachio, and he matches them adding other excellent ingredients, in order to create the classic products and the limited editions.
All of them, it’s worth underlining it, are rigorously made without adding any chemical additive.

Donne al lavoroI don’t know how many of you have ever had the chance to see the production of nougat with their eyes, least of all of such a quality of torrone sweet: since we had this luck, we can testify that it’s pure poetry, a marvel for each of our five senses.
Sight could get lost for hours looking at the mixtures dancing in the machines or at the fingers running fast on the soft nougat.
Touch is amazed by the gummy texture of the mixture when it’s still raw and warm.
Smell gets inebriated by the sweet fragrances of honey, almonds and vanilla that fill every corner of the plant.
Hearing impatiently listens to the sound of the friable, just cracked nougat.
Taste enrapturedly welcomes the always different flavors – delicate or strong, floral or fruity, traditional or innovative – that this special creature can offer.

Stella di torrone fatta a manoAt this point, you can’t help but tasting Scaldaferro’s nougat: we’re sure that, among all its types, you’ll find the right one for you and you’ll never leave it again. Moreover, thinking about Christmas, these sweet creations could be the perfect gift for everyone… relatives, friends, fiancés, gluttons of every age and every need – consider that many of their products are also glutenfree, so suitable for celiac people too!
What are you waiting for, then? Step by La Delizia (in Russi, near Ravenna) to try this artisan marvel. Paola and her girls are waiting for you with lots of brand new Scaldaferro products!

 
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Pubblicato da su 20 ottobre 2014 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #14: Morgan’s pickles, a vegetable garden in a jar @ Malo (Vicenza)

Russi-Malo

We said goodbye in autumn with Marangoni’s chocolate-covered fruit and now, after many months and some vicissitudes, the Travelling Delights are back at their best, with a north-bound trip looking for Morgan and his magic Pickles.

As soon as we get to the headquarters of the company, Luciana, Morgan’s wife, welcomes us with lots of energy, smiles and words. In the small office, also used as company shop, surrounded by colorful jars filled with vegetables, we meet the man who gives his name to the pickles. The passion which moves him clearly shows through his blue attentive eyes, even before than through his words.
In the warehouse used for the various activities, he begins to tell us his story.

L'ingresso del magazzino

The hall of the warehouse

Morgan was born in Friuli as a chef, he travelled the world to better himself and at some point of his life he stopped in Veneto where he opened the restaurant “5 Sensi”. It’s not hard to imagine him cooking and studying new original recipes, changing them at the last minute in order to follow his inspiration. The role of the chef, as he often states, is full of fantasy, and needs both passion and technique, but leaves an edge of freedom where to express one’s flair.

Polipo con giardiniera di Morgan tritata

Octopus with lentils, polenta chips and pickles

One day, Luciana suggested Morgan to prepare some jars of pickles: she used to make them at her place with her roommates during the electronic ingeneering studies at university. She gave her husband her recipe, and he immediately challenged her saying that it was good but he could makeit better. So, after many tries, the recipe of Morgan’s pickles was born, and they began to sell them in a small shop at the restaurant.

Giardiniere in fila

Morgan’s Pickles (La Giardiniera di Morgan)

At some point, Morgan and Luciana noticed that some clients came back from all over Italy not only to eat at the restaurant, but mainly to buy some jars of pickles! In that moment, the spouses understood that it would have been right to give them the space they deserved… so, complicit some circumstances in favor of this decision, the restaurant was closed and Morgan’s activities moved to the industrial area near Vicenza.
Since he didn’t want to abandon completely his activity as a chef, he maintained the “5 sensi” alive and it continues to produce, among other things, a high-level catering service for ceremonies and private events.
Simultaneously, Morgan’s pickles evolved giving birth to many other products, each of which is based on the same philosophy but has got specific characteristics.

Giardiniere esposte

The small Morgan and Anna’s pickles (Giardiniera di Anna di Morgan) and two other kinds of pickles

But what is this philosophy? First of all, at its base there’s the choice of excellent products and their respect. The vegetables (peppers, carrots, cauliflowers, fennels, green beans, onions…) come from small and big companies of the area, some of them are organic and they follow as much as possible the periodicity. The first thing that happens, immediately after the arrival of the loads, is the tasting: everything, before being put into the productive chain, passes through Morgan’s teeth so that he can evaluate the product and make sure it’s tasty and crunchy.

Paola e Morgan alle prese col cavolfiore

Morgan and Paola cut the cauliflower

After it, the vegetables are cleaned and precisely cut by hand by some diligent guys, very young and accurate in their job. It’s important that the final size of the vegetables is the right one to allow a perfect final product.
The following step is the steam cooking, that happens separately for each vegetable. Right after it, the vegetables pass through the blast chiller, so that their color and consistency stay the same.
In the end, they are potted in specific percentages and left to macerate in their seasoning, then pasteurized – in other words, the jars are put into big ovens for some hours, in order to make their hearts reach the temperature of 85/90°. In this way you provide for the complete lack of chemical additives and preservatives, which is a characteristic of these pickles.

La pulizia dei peperoni

The guys who clean and cut peppers

Apart from the processing, aimed to the preservation of the vegetables’ properties, the secret of Morgan’s products is obviously the seasoning in which they macerate… every kind of pickles has its own seasoning, obtained with different percentages of vinegar, oil and spices – and the recipe is clearly secret.

Paola alle prese con le verdure

Paola cutting vegetables

But Morgan’s genius also gave him the idea to dedicate a kind of pickles to every important person of his family. The first one was Luciana, sweeter and “well rounded” than the usual pickles; than it was the turn of Giada, dedicated to the firstborn: fanciful and colored, characterized by a cap which is blue like the girl’s eyes; then Anna was born: it’s still in the testing stage, it has a small and roly poly jar like she is, with a fresh and strong flavour thanks to the ginger and whole chili peppers. The only missing one is the pickle dedicated to the little Giovanni that – they say – will be the craziest one.

Giardiniera Giada di Morgan

Morgan and Giada’s pickles (La Giardiniera Giada di Morgan)

In addition to these, the other specialties are the purple onions, the “pioppini” mushrooms, the white asparagus and the chicory from Treviso… so there is really something to suit everybody’s fancy and every match!

Giardiniere esposte 2

A wall of colors… purple onions, carrots and pioppini mushrooms

Yes, because what Morgan wants to communicate with its work is that pickles are not only something to eat in winter with boiled meat, but on the contrary it’s a great way to include vegetables and their colors all year round, turning them into appetizers, matching them with meat and fish or using them as a salad seasoning.
Morgan put the vegetable garden in a jar, and gave it a new life.

Assaggio di giardiniera Anna di Morgan

A tasting of Morgan and Anna’s pickles (Giardiniera di Anna di Morgan)

We’re sure we made your mouth water, right?
So don’t hesitate, step by La Delizia (in Russi, near Ravenna) where you can find different kinds of Morgan’s pickles… they will satisfy your curiosity and your taste!

 
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Pubblicato da su 19 luglio 2014 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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Stop #12: The little realm of Giamaica Caffè @ Verona

Russi-Verona

After some months off, the Travelling Delights are restarting their trips seeking the food and wine jewels that Italy conceals.
This time, more than ever, we had to dig deep in order to find the enterprise we’re talking about: Caffè Giamaica, an artisan company situated at the doorway of Verona.

Actually, the word “artisan company” it’s absolutely reducing: Caffè Giamaica is a small world on its own, a realm that moves to the rythm of the philosophical laws that regulate it by nature.

But let’s start from the beginning…

We stop the car in front of an apparently ordinary building from the seventies and we wonder if we are in the right place. Two unmistakable clues confirm that yes, besides the look, this is the coffee roasting plant we are looking for: a dark iron sign, that reads “Caffè Giamaica”, stares at us from the gate and the coffee scent flutters in the air intoxicating us since the first breath.

Targa torrefazione

We get in and a continuous noise of machinery and moving grains welcomes us. Right after it, comes Simone Fumagalli, that we later find out being the son of the wife of Gianni Frasi (the owner of the company) and the latter’s successive. This guy, with a nice face and a patient manner, takes care of the coffee roasting, after watching for years more expert people at work, absorbing the fire art. Or, as we later understand, his first years of “apprenticeship” haven’t done anything else but helping his nature fulfilling itself… apparently no one else, in the little Giamaica realm, has ever been as good as him in roasting coffee.

Tostatura del caffè

Simone himself explained and showed us how the roasting plant works, and we had the chance to watch it for a long time completely enchanted.
We learnt that their machine, a Vittoria that comes directly from the fifties, roasts the grains with a direct flame for about 15 minutes, whithin which the specific timing changes not only for different kinds of coffee, but even for every single sack… here the mastery of who roasts the coffee gets in the running, because he has to ensure that in the end every grain reaches a consistent “monk’s robe” color – which means that it’s homogeneously roasted.
Thanks to Simone’s words we start to understand that nothing, in there, is trivialized: the roasting is not just a basic recurring process, but it’s the way with wich they give to the coffee the possibility of expressing itself for what it is. Only at that point, tasting the final result, an expert can recognize its qualities and flaws.
Before arriving to the roasting plant, the coffee is grown in an environment with certain characteristics, then it’s harvested and procesed so that the pulp of the seed of the fruit of the plant – what we commonly call “coffee grains” – is ready to be roasted. All of this obviously influences the coffee and gives it specific characteristics: the already quoted qualities and flaws.

Raffreddamento

After the roasting, the grains that will be grinded and used to prepare espresso have to rest for 48 hours.
In a week, that coffee reaches the peak of its potentiality and expresses at its best all of its aromatic and physical characteristics. After a month, those characteristics begin to decline… and this is the reason why the Giamaica coffee is not granted to any client that doesn’t pledge to be able to use it within that period of time. Yes, because in this roasting plant they attentively select not only the grains (from those who “seem to be” the best plantations in the world) but also the clients. They are examined and they have to be approved by Gianni Frasi before deserving a part of this precious treasure.
Precious, very precious… both because it’s an inherent quality of coffeee – in the regulation of trade it’s only secondary to oil – and because in this roasting plant everything that wheels around it forms a kind of mystic cult, and finally because you can definitely say that the Giamaica coffee is a limited edition product. Gianni, Simone and their collaborators only work on demand and, just to have a hint on the amount of their production, read this anecdote: last year, record year for what concerns the amount of the coffee production, working 365 days without any interruption, from the Giamaica plant came out as much coffee as the one that gets out of a big industrial plant in 8 working hours.

Cartelloni Giamaica

This is the reason why, when we met Gianni Frasi, one of the first things he said was that Caffè Giamaica shouldn’t exist. Yet there it is, since the 1930s it continues its activity and it has no intention of giving up.
Perhaps, as Gianni himself told us, if he hadn’t received a crucial suggestion from above in a critical moment, it would have disappeared like thousands of other italian roasting plants, on the contrary it resurrected from its ashes and it started to burn even brighter than before.

Tazzine Giamaica

But who’s Gianni Frasi? It would be reducing to just identify him as “the owner of the Caffè Giamaica company”.
Frasi is a guru that developed a life philosophy that mingles with the cult of coffee, an enigmatic man who inspects the world through his penetrating blue eyes, with which he stares at you as if he wants to understand if you’re worth, if you’re able to get the meaning of his truth facts and to overcome the initiation ritual.
Meeting him smells like coffee and tastes like a university lesson given by that professor that everybody fears and venerates, with an aftertaste of theatre show where nothing is left to chance. Every sentence is weighted, every word has a specific meaning and is a metaphor for the almost esoteric point of view that Frasi has about coffee, his vocation and the whole cosmos.

Torretta dei caffè

It would be impossible to report all of the stages of the fascinating journey that we made following him on the paths charted by his words, but there’s a central concept through which it’s possible to grasp the point of view of this “coffee holy man”.
The raw coffee grains only have a potential existence, and they can develop this potential only thanks to the baptism obtained through the “aqueous fire” of roasting. The product, before and after it, has the same nature but it’s not the same thing anymore. In order to take advantage of their nature, then, the roasted grains need “burning water”… so the circle can close: espresso is not just an ordinary espresso, but it’s the result of an opposite way antinomy with a religious-philosophical aftertaste.

Uomini e caffè

“Men should be like coffee: Strong, Good, Warm”

Are you curious to try the mystic experience of a coffee that comes from the Giamaica plant?
Don’t fear: we overcame the initiation ritual… not only Frasi allowed us to take the pictures that you can see here, but he also granted Paola to sell his coffee at her shop La Delizia (in Russi, Ravenna).
Step by as soon as you can!

 
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Pubblicato da su 24 settembre 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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Stop #1: Branchi’s cooked ham @ Felino (PR)

Our travels across flavours start with the King of delicatessen: ham.
First stop: Felino – a small town in the province of Parma, famous for its salami – in order to visit the small Branchi company, specialized in high quality cooked ham.

The factory is located in the center of the town, but we only knew how to get to the main square. As we got there, we met a Branchi truck and we decided to ask the driver for some infos… and, how we later found out, he was Mr. Tito Branchi in person, current owner of the company. Who could show us the way better than him? Indeed, we didn’t have any problem in finding the plant: 100 mt away, rusty gate, nr. 11.

The first thing I noticed was the front of the house (that we later got to know is still occupied by Tito Branchi’s old mother): a pale, clean facade, with a small plant of climbing roses, their color perfectly matched with the window green. A poetic sight, symbol of the simpleness and the authenticity of the company and of their products. And its romanticism too, because there surely is a lot of love in the devotion that the Branchi’s put in their job.

In the courtyard, we found a welcoming Giovanni, Tito’s son and brother of Franco, the three pillars of the company.
After taking us to a cellar converted into a meeting room, soflty enlightened and full of family heirlooms, he started telling us the story of their business.

The firm started in the Fifties maturing ham. After a while, the family – because, we need to underline this, it’s a family-owned business – decided to specialize in cooked ham and to abandon the maturing activity.

Giovanni, in particular, has been a rugby player at a semi-professional level until the age of 29. Then he graduated in Food Science and Technology, he left rugby and he decided to dedicate himself to the company. They updated everything, in order to create a more modern series of products even if keeping on respecting all the criteria of homemade production.

That’s how they gave birth to Magnolia Cooked Ham, the series of the Smoked ham and the one of the Specials – High Quality: the Classic Local Printed Cooked Ham, the Hand-Tied, the Cooked Culatta (made with a fine part of the thigh) and the Mec Special (the only one made from non-local thighs). Every local ham has the P.P. brand, which stands for “Parma Production”, and the meat is personally chosen by Franco, who goes on purpose to the slaughterhouse every week.


The latest launched is also the flagship of the Branchi production: the “Cotto ’60” (“’60 Cooked ham”). It was born in 2010, and it’s a completely natural product, cooked inside the typical can used in the Sixties for this kind of production. It was subject to various tests, but even the very first version revealed itself as a world-beater: it was indeed awarded – by the prestigious “Gambero Rosso” magazine – as the best cooked ham in Italy in July 2010, after it was introduced to the market at Taste exhibition in April of the same year.

After this introduction, it came the moment to go and visit the real plant, quite small in its genre – it’s about 1100 square mts – and suitable for a company that, as we said, is an artisan and family enterprise.
The production is not very extensive, we’re talking of about 500 pieces of ham per week… which are a lot anyway, if you think of all the hand-made actions that Giovanni and the employees do!

Our tour started in a cold store where the fresh thighs were hanging. Everyone of them was marked, so that their origin and characteristics are recognizable.

Then Giovanni let us see the “ribollita”: a huge pot full of very dark water, which was the concentrated infusion of spices, used to season the pieces of ham. Real spices, that we later saw with our eyes and profusely smelled, which are mixed following a secret family recipe and then boiled to extract their essence. No flavourings, normally used in the industrial output, nor other weird brew to make the meat damper and heavier – at the expenses of quality and above all of our health! The Branchi’s only use their secret spices, salt and water in a sufficient but not excessive quantity: the pieces of ham loose a bit of weight compared to the fresh thighs, but they absolutely gain quality.

The brine is injected in the meat with a multi-needle technology, the femoral arteries are hand-cleaned one by one and the thighs are manually salted, then they are churned – that is they’re put in a kind of a “concrete mixer” which massages and softens them, and finally they’re put into the molds – or into the cans if it’s the “Cotto ’60” – and cooked for about 24 hours.

For the smoked series, the smoking is done on the raw meat by burning beech wood, then the pieces of ham are cooked.

Once ready, the products get to the small room where a brisk worker hand-packs them, sticking every single label on the bag and then wrapping the pieces of ham.

The last step is the pasteurization, and after that the products are ready to be sent to the addressees!

Addressees among which stands also Paola, who cuts and sells Branchi’s cooked ham in her shop “La Delizia” so, if you got fascinated by this story of complete devotion of Branchi’s family towards their products, if you’re looking for absolute quality which respects both the meat they use and the consumer, if you want an excellent product both in the processing and in the flavour, you ought to know that you can find it in Russi (Ravenna), always at your disposal!

Believe me, after getting to know this kind of reality, seeing how they treat their products and, instead, listening to how ham is processed in the industrial production, you couldn’t desire nothing but a few good slices of artisan cooked ham, made in accordance with the rules… like this!
So when you’re around you should run to “La Delizia” to taste it! 🙂

 
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Pubblicato da su 27 maggio 2012 in English version!, Uncategorized

 

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