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I spent last weekend on another ‘business’ trip, this time at the Parma Ham Festival. Ryanair run a cheap flight from Stansted, and I’d recommend that anyone who has an interest in prosciutto production to go and check it out. Although the festival is largely about the auctions, exhibitions, drink receptions and street feasting, the real draw for me was the Open Doors element of the festival where little shuttle buses ferried tourists and locals to catch a rare glimpse of the inside of the factories. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about a process, until you see the actual facilities and get to talk to the curers themselves there’s always some little detail or nuance that you’ve missed out.

We stayed at Cancabaia, a stunning little agriturismo in Santa Maria del Piano, a few minutes drive from Langhirano, the centre of Parma ham production. The hosts Simona and Bruno were excellent, welcoming and invaluable in suggesting places for us to visit and eat. Directly opposite to the farm was a co-operative owned small cheese factory where they sent their milk to be made into Parmesan, it was quite stunning.

Bruno made some calls, and arranged for us to visit a nearby Balsamic Vinegar farm – they made the three types of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale aged for 12, 18 and 25 years. High in the attic were the various barrels that stored the wine must which is slowly air evaporated to make the final Balsamico. We took a silver label bottle away with us, aged for 18yrs, and it’s safely in our pantry waiting to be used.

The final place we visited was La Longarola, a beautiful agriturismo that served food. I’d specifically wanted to visit as they kept the traditional black Parma pig. In their ‘cave’ they had a stock of their salumi – they send their pigs to slaughter and a local curer produces their cuts for them – we were lucky enough to try their Culaccia and Gola, both of which melted in the mouth. We brought a chunk of Gola home with us, I can’t wait to fry up a few slices with some pasta.

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