Over the five days of the event we attended 3 taste workshops. These taste workshops were Slow Food Presidia projects. These projects aim to support and protect:
Tasting food is a total sensory experience. It not only involves the taste buds but it is also a visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile experience.
Parmigiano Reggiano - Vertical Tasting.
The setting: The magnificent Palazzo (palace) Graneri della Roccia and its evocative blend of baroque and contemporary architecture.
It is a wonderfully ornate room, set with tables in rows, and the service is formal. The panel includes the master cheese maker, the wine maker and the cheese expert. The first tasting is a cheese aged for 2 years and 42 days and commences with the cutting of the cheese wheel weighing 40 kilos. The master cheese maker explains the process:
First step is about sound. A hammer is used to bang the cheese - there needs to be a strong hollow sound. Next a thin taster like a needle is inserted for the initial taste which is eaten of the side of the hand. Then the first of a number different knives is used to cut through the rind.(a hooked "Unico Doppio" blade) The first cut of the rind is made right around the middle of the wheel. Four, (Pavia” or “Milano" blades) pointed almond shaped knives are inserted at the compass points of the cheese and then another four (Cuore” Parmigiano) larger, almond shaped, double-bladed knifes are inserted on the alternate diagonals. The insertion of these knives are to ease the wheel open Finally, the flat (Premana) knife is inserted to crack the halves of the wheel apart. Fantastico and very theatrical! This cheese along with 5 other vintages were served.
While the service was occurring, a discourse on the cheese making occurred:
The parmigiano reggiano was made from the milk of the white cow of Modena. In the 1950’s there were 140,000 head of this cattle breed, but over successive decades it suffered a steep decline, corresponding to the unstoppable rise of the Friesan. Friesans have very high milk production between 16 to 30 litres a day, where as the white Modenas produce 8 to 11 litres a day. However while the Friesan cow produces quantity it does not produce milk to make quality cheese. The milk from the white Modena cow has been proven as the best
milk for this cheese production. The coagulation of this milk is slower and this factor is key in the making of the cheese. The milk is sent straight from the cow farm to the cheese maker, without heating or cooling so as to keep as much of the bacteria / enzymes alive as possible. Warm air is blown across the curd keeping the temperature around 70 degrees so as not to kill the bacteria. Parmigiano is a living cheese with the protein turned into peptides. Friesan milk coagulation lasts about 9 minutes while Modena milk lasts 11.5 minutes.
The tasting consisted of 6 vintages of parmiagano regianno: 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 and 84 months. To taste we were advised to sniff first, smell, feel, (must be eaten with the hands) and then taste. A great deal of discussion ensued about the qualities of the different vintages. This also included discussions with the cheese maker about the weather conditions when the cheese was made, the meadow conditions etc. The taste changes in the vintages were detectable and interesting. The 24 month vintage had some spiciness and a bit dry; 36 months - slightly sweater; 48 months - well balanced; 60 months - this was my preferred one. It was really good. 72 months - dry and an ‘interesting taste'; 84 months - I didn’t really like. Each tasting was accompanied with a wine.
The event was really interesting and it was amazing to taste such beautiful cheeses and great wines. It was a wonderful merry day.
The taste workshops offer a way of learning while tasting (and smelling, touching, hearing and seeing), stimulating the senses while delving into topical issues and fascinating products and hearing stories directly from the producers.Terra Madre Salone del Gusto events program
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm