Europe Trip – Bologna Part 2 – Balsamic Vinegar & Prosciutto


(originally posted on Blogger on July 14, 2010)


So far we’ve done

Bologna Part 1 – Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory

Click here if you missed our 40,000 wheels of cheese!
Bologna – Part 2

Balsamic Vinegar

Continuing on our Italian Days Food Experience led by Alessandro we left the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory and headed into another part of Modena.
Acetaia Villa San Donnino

We visited an Acetaia – no English translation but basically it’s where they make the awesome balsamic. This is traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena that has a special certification that has to be granted every year to the makers.

these barrels have a hole at the top just covered by cheesecloth

This vinegar is aged a minimum of 12 years. The barrels are all made of different types of wood and cost about 3000 euros a set. Something very specific about the grapes and the air and bacteria mix you get in Modena makes this stuff so special. It takes 12 years before you get 1 litre of vinegar that you can sell or use. It’s not a good way to earn money and is definitely a true labour of love.

Alessandro giving up lots of info – but it was hot as hell up there
This stuff has been made traditionally for centuries. They have a receipt on the wall for a balsamic vinegar purchase from 812 A.D.!

We got to try a 12 year old, a 25 year old, and a 120 year old balsamic vinegar. Just a few drops from the spoon and you the difference between them. The older ones are more syrupy and sweet.

120 year old balsamic – like drinking liquid gold
balsamic on home made vanilla ice cream – delicious!
That’s Mr. TC’s hand and those aren’t my feet.

They sell all these products of course. The 12 year old was 40 euros and the 25 year old was 75 euros. Can’t remember how much the 120 year old vinegar cost because it was way beyond my price limit.

They also served us nocino – an 80 proof walnut liqueur that they make on site. This stuff is sticky, thick, and delicate. I found my new favourite drink. If I could have I would have brought bottles of this stuff back home. But alas Mr. TC didn’t want to lug bottles of liqueur through Tuscany and London. If anyone knows of where to buy this in Vancouver or the Pacific Northwest I will be thrilled.

The Acetaia is in a building next to the owners house. They live in this beautiful villa that was actually passed down from the owners grandfather. I don’t believe he’s ever had to work and when you see this house you see that they definitely aren’t making balsamic because they need the money.

entering their beautiful villa

Part of the Robert de Niro film 1900 was filmed in this mansion. They actually show you the segment of the film that was set in the building and it’s surreal standing in the same room that you see on the screen.

We hopped back in the minivan for lunch.


Next we went to a traditional Italian vineyard (cantina) Corte d’Aibo

Bologna Vineyard

Vineyard outside of Bologna

view of the vineyard during lunch
an organic farm. Made me think of my 4 year old who loves tractors.
I love my ham!
as if we didn’t have enough cheese already
The food was excellent and I didn’t get a good shot of the pasta they served because I was too busy eating.
What this post doesn’t show is me downing another two shot glasses full of nocino liqueur. God that stuff was so good if I hadn’t already filled up on red wine (remember it’s only 1pm) that I would have chugged back another few. I have to admit I was swaying a bit back to the car.
Prosciutto Factory

Last stop was at a factory where they make famous prosciutto. Everyone has heard of Prosciutto di Parma – well apparently to see the factory where they make that specific named product we’d have to go quite a ways away. So we went to a factory that makes Prosciutto di Modena – apparently same quality and price but just a different name.
By the way, vegetarians look away. Seriously.

Pigs must be at least 9 months old before they are used to make this ham.

legs of pork are washed
then refrigerated to just freezing

It was boiling hot outside so standing in near freezing temperatures of this gigantic fridge was quite a nice change. But standing in a meat locker gave me some CSI flashbacks and the heebie-jeebies.

then heavily salted and left to rest at
2 degrees celsius for 8 weeks

They are then washed and dried. Then they are painted with a thin layer of paste made from lard, flour, salt and pepper.

imagine a whole warehouse just of pork leg

They are allowed to age for over a year.

branded for approval

The boss shows us how the ham is inspected before being stamped officially Prosciutto di Modena. They use a horse bone needle to check five places. They can tell if the needle comes out not smelling right that the product is no good. We got to try this out and, well, good thing it smelled like yummy prosciutto.

quality control with a horse bone needle
By the end of the tour we finally got to have some prosciutto. Yes it was definitely good but we were all so stuffed that there were actually leftover samples.
All right, we aren’t done with food in Bologna yet! I’ve post Bologna – Part 3 soon.
2 Responses to “Europe Trip – Bologna Part 2 – Balsamic Vinegar & Prosciutto”
  1. Ms. R says:

    Fascinating learning how balsamic vinegar and prosciutto is made. What a science! You’re a great travel narrator. Thx.

  2. TC, you’ve been busy cleaning house, haven’t you?? Love the new tab and sidebar features (miss Rob’s face, of course).

    This is another awesome travel post. I’m still amazed at everything you and Mr. TC got to do on your trip. I can’t believe they thought to combine balsamic vinegar and vanilla ice cream, though, and that it tasted so good. The villa and the vineyard must have been stunning in person, because they are gorgeous in the pictures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: