Discover the Origin
Today we are much more food aware. More and more we want to know how it is produced, where it comes from, what is in it, and how to use it. Walk into any supermarket or store and the variety of goods on display is incredible. What to buy can be more than a little confusing; but with the help of the European Union’s Discover the Origin campaign we consumers are guided to quality products.
The 2013 Discover the Origin campaign is designed to raise awareness of five Protected Designation of Origin Products (PDO), namely: Bourgogne wines; Parma Ham; Douro Wines; Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Port.
By protecting the heritage, character and reputation of the products the granting of a PDO logo ensures a guarantee of excellence and also that the item has been produced in a specific geographic region. Further that it has been produced by local producers who are probably using traditional methods, who care about what they are making, and who only use modern methods of production so long as it improves and does not detract from the quality of the product.
A Foody Masterclass
The Foody Traveller was lucky enough to sit in on a recent masterclass taken by the talented and charming chef Jun Tanaka along with representatives of the five wine and food products. Actually it was more of a hands-on affair. Along with presentations of the wine, port, and antipasti of different aged Parma Ham and Parmigiano Regiano, plus the cookery demonstration by Jun, we were sent to our benches, given the ingredients and told, if we wanted any lunch, to get cooking.
And it was delicious, in spite of so many cook. Chicken breasts topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest and wrapped in slices of Parma Ham cooked on a bed of roasted root vegetables were followed by slices of plum and pear, topped with blackberries, grapes and a slug of cassis all baked en papillote and served with crème Chantilly – accompanied by more superb Burgundy and Douro wines plus a glass of Port.
The world-famous Bourgogne Wines we were to learn are made chiefly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes by some 10,000 producers and are classified under Regional, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations. They have been producing wine here for 2000 years, which might account for why they are so very good at making them today. Vineyards cover five main areas of production – Chablis, the Grand Auxerrois, and Châtillonnais; Côte de Nuits; Côte de Beaune; Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais – and between them account for some 185 million bottles of wine annually.
Port and Douro wines are made from the same grapes. But it was only in 1982 that the wines received their own Denominacão de Origem Controlada (DOC) classification (over 200 years later than that for Port). Douro Wines are made from native grape varieties which include for the reds Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão; the whites include Malvasia, Rabigato and Viosinho. The majority of the wines are from a blend of varietals. Following the current fashion for drinking rosé wines the Douro region also produces them now.
The Douro region claims the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world for its Port, dating from 1756. The region is stunningly beautiful and in 2001 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because wine has been produced there for 2000 years and because of the traditional methods of wine production. Some 46,000 hectares of vines cling onto the near vertical slopes of the river valley.
Parma Ham by law has to be produced and cured in the hills around Parma. Today there are 189 companies producing this delicious ham made purely from Italian pigs, salt, air, and as they say, time! No additives are allowed. The process involves trimming off some of the skin and fat to give the ham its traditional chicken drumstick shape; sea salt is rubbed into the meat which is refrigerated for about a week; any residual salt is removed and the ham given another light coating of salt and left for 15-18 days to cure the meat.
The hams then hang for up to 70 days in refrigerated conditions to rest before being washed and any excess salt removed prior to hanging in drying rooms. From there they are hung on frames in well ventilated rooms for about three months, after which their exposed surfaces are rubbed with a mix of minced pork fat and salt to soften them. They are then moved to dark, racked rooms where they hang until the curing process is completed – anything from one year to 30 months.
It is then tested to see if it sufficiently high enough quality to be branded Parma Ham. If it is, it is then branded with a five-pointed crown to denote its quality. The flavour should be rich, sweet and salty. As it ages the ham takes on a more meaty depth, the fat white or rosy, but not yellow.
Genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is only produced in the area around Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena to Bologna and Mantua. It’s a hard, cheese with a granular texture, cooked not pressed. Made in the way it has been for 800 years. The ingredients used are simply raw cow’s milk, calf’s rennet and salt. 600 litres of milk are needed to make one cheese weighing about 38kg.
The cows are only fed on grass or hay and concentrated feeds can only be made from a list of specific ingredients. The cheese is made from an evening and morning milking which are then mixed together and some of the cream skimmed off, before a starter (fermenting-whey) is added, the milk heated to 33˚C and rennet added. The resulting curd is then broken up into small pieces prior to being heated and put into a circular mould for pressing, turning and setting. It is then soaked in salt water for 20-25 days and taken to mature for at least 12 months. After a year the cheeses which have passed the stringent regulations are branded with the words Parmigiano Reggiano. There are two grades of cheese: one Parmigiano-Reggiano Mezzano denotes a cheese ready for consumption; whereas those marked Parmigiano-Reggiano can be further matured for at least two years. The cheese is highly nutritious being full of protein, calcium and vitamins and because of its long curing process the milk protein is broken down into amino acids making it much easier to digest than many milk products.
The Discover the Origin campaign ensures that what we are eating is – Simply the Best.
Learn more about the Discover the Origin campaign at:
Tatton Park, Cheshire 17-19 May
Clapham Common, London 7-9 June
Inverleith Park, Edinburgh 9-11 August
Oxford 24-26 August
York Festival of Food and Drink 20-22 September