It should come as no surprise that I am passionate about food preservation techniques. But what you may not know about me is that I am also eternally infatuated with Italy. My mother's side hails from there, and I've traveled fairly extensively through the country.
Few countries have as deep and rich a culture of food preservation as Italy. Techniques for salumi, curing fish and other kinds of preservation go back to Roman times, and have been refined greatly over the millennia. This is why, when my friend Vanessa suggested taking a group to her hometown of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, Italy to learn with local artisans (who happen to be her family), I leapt at the idea.
Italy has an especially deep tradition of salumi, so much so that there is an entire profession dedicated to knowing not only how to make it, but when to slaughter the pig and begin preserving the meat. He is called the norcino (nor-CHEE-no).
Tradition dictates that the optimal time to do this is starting with the first new moon after the Winter solstice. According to the norcino, beginning the process of preserving the meat during the period of the waxing moon. As it turns out, the last new moon of 2011 will fall on Christmas Day. Given that, we are looking at the few weeks following Christmas to take this trip.
We're looking at a 6-night, 7-day trip to Cesenatico, on the Adriatic coast. The itinerary will be a combination of hands-on classes where we make salumi, cured fish and preserves; the alternate days will afford opportunities to visit some relevant and interesting destinations. Here's what we're thinking:
Day 1: Arrive in Bologna in late afternoon and transfer to Cesenatico, have dinner and get to know each other.
Day 2: Pig - we start big time! The slaughtered pig will be delivered to the kitchen and we get underway making a variety of salumi: salami, sausages, ciccioli, coppa di testa, all the boiling, and strutto and possibly pancetta.
Day 3: Visit Cervia to see how they harvest the Salt of the Popes, and then spend the afternoon at Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli, where we can have a piadina class and dinner at the restaurant of the estate.
Day 4: Fish Day- we start with the retail fish market in Cesenatico, then head to buy fish that would be suitable for preservation, and then spend the afternoon looking at under oil and under salt fish preservations.
Day 5: Visit Parma to experience Parmigiano cheese and Modena for Balsamico.
Day 6: Miscellaneous preserves, including Savor, a chutney-like condiment made with apples, pears and nuts, all under the tutelage of Vanessa's grandmother.
Day 7: Departures after breakfast
Right now, this entire trip, inclusive of lodging, meals and transportation in country, looks to come in at $2500 per person. You'll be responsible for your own airfare to Bologna.
Sounds great, right? I think so. If you're really, seriously interested, then please help us make a decision as to which week would work best for interested parties. Take this survey, and hopefully we'll see you in Cesenatico, Emilia-Romagna!