Monday, July 18, 2016


A much refreshed group boarded the bus at 7:45 a.m. for a day filled with four separate agricultural visits. TOURS & TASTING became a theme today as we were able to taste the specialty products at each of the locations we toured. 

We are fast learning that formal meals contain numerous courses, and wine is served often. The photos below give insight into everything from cheese and wine production to vegetable preservation and salami making. Quite honestly, there are so many photos I could share, it is hard to narrow down to just this group. 

Our first stop included an in-depth tour at the Stefani Cheese Factory, which produces Provolone and Grana Padano. 

Separating the whey takes place in large copper lined vats. This factory uses rennet enzyme from goats to aid in the separation process. Using rennet is one of the oldest separation processes known to man.
Once separated the whey is taken to a nearby pig farm and fed in place of water. This gives pigs added nutrition. The milk fat is sold to another factory to make butter and cream. The curdles that are left move on to to begin the rest of the cheese making process.
The cheese is pressed into a mold to remove any additional liquid.

Once the pressing is complete the wheel then receives a factory specific label.

Each wheel also receives a stamp with the date the cheese was produced. It is placed in a cool room to draw out any additional moisture. For more than 1000 years the cheese has been placed on wooden tables in this part of the process. You can also see plastic used here, as some clients prefer this method for what they perceive to be sanitary reasons. The cheese is then also given a salt bath (not pictured).
Finally the cheese is then hung by a rope for the long aging process. Provolone can be aged up to two years in some cases depending on the desired flavor. The longer the aging, the sharper the taste.
The Grana Padano sits in the salt room for 20 days and then also moves on to age. Each of the 34 aging rooms can hold 1000 wheels of Grana Padano.

This factory produces 80,000 wheels each year. Various inspections are completed along the way and for each one the cheese is marked in a way similar to branding. This method prevents the mark from being removed at any point in the aging process. This particular wheel was produced in April 2014. Ten to 12 months is a normal aging time, but some Grana Padano is aged to 30 months.
Doug and Chris Wevik enjoying our first taste testing of the day.
Glen and Janet Davis agree the provolone passes inspection.
Next we traveled to a town of 30 people called Soarza, home of the Pizzavacca farm. These farmers, originally traditional corn and wheat growers, transitioned to growing vegetables and fruit 10 years ago in order to find more profitability and stay viable. Today this farm uses natural preservation methods to produce canned vegetables, marmalades, juices, and preserves. 
This 160 acre farm has been in the same family for four generations.
Originally farm buildings have been updated and remodeled to suit the needs of the operation as it has transitioned over the last 10 years. Here you can see solar panels have been put in place to add energy efficiency. 
The operators of the farm are young producers who have been successful in elevating their products and practices. 
We sampled pasties made with preserves from the farm as well as canned vegetables.

The fruit nectars are thick and flavorful. 
These vegetables are canned in olive oil. Other products are canned in either a mixture of lemon juice and sugar or salt and vinegar depending on what taste is being sought.

Our lunch included a wine tasting at the LA Stoppa vineyard. We sampled four difference wines, one with each course of our meal. Following our meal we toured the wine cellar and enjoyed the peaceful country ambience. 

Vineyards lined the hill side as we drove a few miles on a narrow gravel road to arrive at La Stoppa.
This beautiful working vineyard and home served as a perfect place for many in the group to grab a photo.
We tasted four wines, one with each course of our meal. 
We toured the wine cellar prior to leaving La Stoppa.

The final stop of the day took us to Slumificio, a ham factory dating back to 1800. This family owned business makes 70 different products. Here we learned about curing various types of salami, a process that can take up to a year in some cases. At this time 25 different salamis are being cured. 

Typically these types of family owned businesses also have a store front to sell their own and other local products.
Here the salami is hung to for various amounts of time to complete the aging process.
Some meat is aged for up to a year.
Once the aging is complete, the meat is packaged for delivery or shipping.
This cured ham would cost about $170 priced at $17/lb and weighing 10 lbs.  As one husband said to his wife, "Our anniversary is coming up." I do not think this was the gift she had in mind.
In Italy we have also noticed food presentation is very important.
This stop served as our last speciality product tasting of the day.