After sleeping in, eating a leisurely breakfast and catching up on internet stuff we were in the car and on our way to Pio Tosini to tour their Parma ham factory. They are one of the oldest Parma Ham producers in Italy.
Upon arrival we were given a white hat to keep our hair back and a white jacket to cover our clothes before we were allowed into the factory. Our guide was giving us a private tour and today was a great day to tour being the factory workers were in high gear processing the fresh pork.
As soon as we walked in, we saw many workers hard at work. The first room was where the legs of ham were being received. There were inspectors for Pio Tosini approving or disapproving the legs coming off the trucks. They have to be a certain weight and have a certain amount of fat amongst other specifications in order to be accepted by the factory. We saw racks of raw pork legs rolling by us as they were coming into the factory and getting the factory stamp to mark the date received.
The next room was where the conveyor line was set up…the ham was placed in the machine where it was massaged and then salted by hand by one person on the line. It is up to him how much salt is to be placed on the leg. The ham is then placed in a huge refrigerator for some time before going back through the salt line again.
Our guide then took us upstairs and opened another huge refrigerator…again filled to the rim with ham. There are very specific time periods the hams rest in each refrigerator and they are also given a bath upstairs….cleaned thoroughly before going into the next part of the factory.
After the legs have been approved, massaged, salted, bathed and rested for several months…they are placed in a large temperature controlled room where a group of people rub on a type of pig fat mixed with pepper (looks like Crisco) by hand. It goes on the exposed muscle tissue of the leg. This helps to keep some of the air out and the meat moist. They hang side by side with this grease on for about a year before they are ready to be stamped with the golden crown.
An outside inspector from the consortium comes in with a horse bone which is long, skinny and pointy, and enters the bone into five different points on the ham leg. The bone is quickly pushed into the ham and then quickly lifted to the nose. The inspector is smelling to make sure the inside smells good. If it doesn’t pass the test then it is not given the stamp which is literally a crown and states “Parma”.
It was so interesting to see how complex the process of creating this Parma ham was and we got to see both the fresh ham and the final product. We took plenty of pictures and a quick video (see below). Tomorrow we will be visiting another factory to compare and contrast.
We thanked our guide for the free private tour and headed back to our hotel after a quick stop at the grocery. We stayed inside sprawling out on our bed with our specialty shop picnic goodies and fresh veggies from the grocery while settling into a movie.
Published by Giff Kabat
I grew up in Ohio as a kid, so of course I went to college at “THE” Ohio State University. I graduated in 2001 with a major in business finance. A month after graduation, I moved out to California with my college girlfriend (whom I married in 2005)…and started my career in sales (industrial sales for 5 years…then moved into medical laser sales for 4 years).
In 2009 I was 31 years old. I had a great job, a new house, and a beautiful wife. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better…my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. Everything was going according to plan…and I couldn’t have scripted a better life for myself.
Then in the same year…everything changed. My wife, Brandey, called me when I was on my way to work and told me over the phone, something I never thought could be possible in a million years. My beautiful 30-year old pregnant wife was just told that she had breast cancer. At that moment, everything stopped all at once. I immediately went to her…and learned of our new plan…which began with her needing surgery immediately…and the rest we would find out later.
The day we returned from the hospital after Brandey’s surgery…my father died. He had been battling an aggressive cancer of his own…and although he was the one person I wanted to speak with about Brandey having cancer…I never told him. My sister, Brooke, had just gotten married a few months ago, and although he was weak, he was able to walk his little girl down the aisle of her wedding. On the night before my sister’s wedding, Brandey and I told him that we were pregnant and about to make him a grandfather. It made no sense to tell him that everything had changed for us…so he died in peace knowing everything was “the way it should be” for his only 2 children.
2010 was the worst year of my life. We had lost our baby…and for 12 months I watched my wife fight cancer with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and drug therapy. It was a difficult year for us…but we made it. When you go through something like this in life, you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. I was amazed at the strength and courage of my wife…and how many good people there are in this world. I will be forever grateful for the ones who never ceased to amaze me with their kindness during this hard time. Family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers…helped us make it through this. I am, and will always be especially grateful to my mother, who was with my dad at the very end, when I couldn’t be there, and when things were at their worst. She has been so supportive throughout all of this, and without her everything would have been so much harder for me.
It’s 2011 now…and the plan we have for our life this year…is to make it the best year of our lives. Brandey is officially in remission from breast cancer and she has a 95% chance the cancer will never come back. Besides the love that I have for my wife and family, the loves of my life are food, wine, and adventure travel. My wife and I love traveling to new places, seeing natural wonders, and meeting new people from different parts of the world. So for the next 400 days…we’ve decided to travel the world…and celebrate our lives. There are so many things I took for granted in life that I will never take for granted again. My father worked for over 30 years at the same job with the same company…rarely took time off…and died at 64 years old right after his retirement. For me, this trip is a combination of a tribute to him, along with wanting to spend the time of my life with the “love of my life.”
* The only thing I will miss while we are gone is our family and friends (who we hope will meet us somewhere throughout our trip) and especially our 3 little kitties we left with my mom in Ohio to catsit for the next 400 days. I will also miss watching “American Football” over the weekend…but I’ll do my best to check the scores in the middle of the night.
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One Reply to “Day 164 of 400: Parma – Italy”
OMG! The look on your face in the video when the lady was pointing out all of the parts. LOL! I love parma ham, but I don’t think I could do the tour. LOL!