I'm much more interested in quality than quantity. But since we have only two confirmed bookings on the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany in January 2023 and none on the March course, I've begun to wonder whether the market is saturated.
Has everyone on the planet who wants to make Italian salumi already done our courses?
How many courses have we actually run since the launch in November 2010?
Should we be celebrating our 50th course or is it more or less?
I admit I got a bit obsessed with the numbers. And I'm surprised by the results.
Total number of Advanced Salumi Courses
Tuscany: 48 since launch in November 2010
Bologna-Parma: 7 since launch in January 2017
Total number of participants
Pretty impressive, but what really surprised me were the number of nationalities represented by the participants.
Thirty-seven countries! You'll notice a little cheating: the four 'kingdoms' of the United Kingdom are tallied separately, but I was curious about how many people came from each. Now I wonder: have we contributed positively to international relations?
Purely in terms of numbers the US outdistances the rest, but as a percentage of the total population England must be the winner. When I first moved to Cambridge (England) in 1967, there were several dedicated pork butchers in the town. I don't know of any now. Perhaps today's butchers, pig farmers and chefs yearn to re-establish that tradition of curing pork but in a manner reflective of our more international outlook. In the realm of salumi, by which I mean dry cured pork as opposed to cooked dishes so common in France, no nationality merits emulating more than the Italians.
Returning to the question in the title: how many salamis? I don't have a record of how many salamis our participants have made over the years. Hundreds? Thousands?
So, is the market completely saturated? Or is this just the lull in the eye of the storm? Are bookings for February 2023 in Bologna and Parma and March in Tuscany about to come flooding in? These are questions for you, my readers.
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By Alison Goldberger
As 2022 comes to a close, we would love to share our adventures with you. We were delighted to welcome so many visitors back to Italy to share in the knowledge of our artisans and take part in our tours. We kicked the year off with a classic, the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany. Read on to find out what else the year had in store for Sapori & Saperi Adventures…
The first course of the year still had an air of Covid around but regular testing meant we could carry on as normal. We visited Massimo Bacci and enjoyed the delicious Lardo di Colonnata by Fausto Guadagni.
Illness in the family of one of our artisans led to a last minute change…bread baking! After 18 years in Italy, Erica has learned the Italian art of improvisation. A quick phone call and we were off to Paolo Magazzini to learn how to make Slow Food Presidium Garfagnana potato bread in a wood-fired oven.
The last artisan of the course never disappoints. Here’s Gino Rocchi air drying some pancetta outside his incredibly scenic Salumificio. During a visit to Gino we see the whole production run. It's a wonderful experience.
Annabel loves crafts, so we took her and her mother to the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum, Pescia) for a watermarked paper workshop. She caught on so quickly, that they offered her an apprenticeship. Too bad she had to go back to school in the States.
February also brought with it the Mozzarella & its Cousins course. We had rethought the course, deciding it was too complicated, even for experienced cheesemakers, to learn both mozzarella traditions in Campania. We reluctantly abandoned the excellent dairy in Caserta and added a new one in Salerno Province. We were a bit jittery at first, but Tenuta Chirico turned out to be a joy to work with. We got to make our own pot of mozzarella. The best learning experience possible.
We enjoyed meeting Rodolfo (pictured centre), whose dad and uncle were both cheesemakers. He thought he wanted to learn something different. However, summers spent in dairies inspired a love for cheesemaking and he’s now the head cheesemaker at Chirico. He’s a great teacher too…lucky for us!
Of course the Art & Science of Gelato course saw us pay a visit to Mirko Tognetti, owner of Cremeria Opera in Lucca. Gary Mihalik was already an experienced gelato maker, but he wanted to do a private course with Mirko to find out what he didn't know. There was fast and furious conversation in the classroom and the lab!
Gary also got to try out the Cattabriga EFFE 6 – a vertical batch freezer, something he'd always wanted to do. Dreams really do come true…
Another month, another Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany. Here we are at Agriturismo Venturo preparing the filling for salami. Ismaele Turri teaches on this part of the course—butchering the pig, the Modena cut, shaping the prosciutto and spalla, pancetta, salting whole pieces.
And the women on the course saluting all women on International Women’s Day under the flag of peace.
Peace was also on the minds of the locals in Erica’s village of Casabasciana. They gathered together to enjoy a dinner to raise money for Ukrainian refugees. They raised €600 to put towards helping refugees living in Bagni di Lucca. Bravi!
There was a special half-day Art & Science of Gelato course in April, with one of our guests Barbara creating a genius flavour! Peanut butter, chocolate and meringue. So good it was on sale in Cremeria Opera.
Then, after a two year break we were back in Sardinia! Our group received a very warm welcome from Roberta and Aurora at the Gallo Bianco, Erica's favourite hotel in Cagliari.
A very welcome first toast of the tour. It was good to be back!
Even Erica can find something new to enjoy on the tours. During the Celebrating Sardinia tour she noticed something she’d never taken in before. She has watched the decorated oxen yoked together pulling the traccas during the Sagra of Sant'Antioco several times. Yet she never noticed that the yoke isn't the usual type that rests on the beasts' necks. Instead it links their horns. Our guide at the Museo Etnografico told us that this type of yoke exists only in Sardinia (ruled by Spain for four centuries), Spain and a few other countries which were also under Spanish rule. Where did it come from? There's a Nuragic bronze statuette from around 800 BC of exactly the same yoke. Perhaps it originated right here in Sardinia.
The Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour followed Celebrating Sardinia. First we had a two-day workshop doing natural dyeing. First up, calendula. We heard about its many health benefits and also learned how to use the pigment from the petals as a dye.
A Woad & Wood tour had to include woad. Woad was the blue dye before cheaper and easier-to-use indigo replaced it.
We have to show you at least one of the beautiful silk squares we created.
We enjoyed learning how to print with rust dye from Emanuele Francione. He uses hand-carved wooden blocks he inherited from his grandfather.
Not to forget that many wild plants are good to eat as well as dye with. We couldn't get enough of this tart made by our hostess, Federica Crocetta.
On the final day of this whirlwind month Erica welcomed her group at the first meal of the Tastes & Textiles: Wine to Dye For tour. She was in for a surprise. During Covid when tables had to be spaced out, Baldo Vino had decided to open a new osteria for the traditional cuisine and go 'cheffy' at the original restaurant Erica knew so well. Everything was well-cooked and delicious. But of course now Erica wants to go back to try the new place serving the old food! Review pending...
'The most amazing thing about today was that I made a basket!' said Lydia, tired but happy at the end of another brilliant day on the Wine to Dye For tour. Erica wrote about the day: 'We went into the Padule (Marshes) di Fucecchio where Alessandra told us about the raw materials used for centuries to make baskets and other everyday articles. Then back to the Research Centre to learn to plait (braid) the marsh reeds. Simple enough, but we had to plait at least 5 metres and it was difficult to make it tight enough and to keep the diameter even along the whole length. After our picnic lunch, we went into the classroom to stitch the plaits into baskets. Despite our patient instructors, at first everyone said they couldn't do it. The stitching was so hard on our fingers. But slowly, slowly the plaits got stitched into place and everyone made a basket!'
The food on tours is always divine and in June it was no different. There were lots of special meals on the Wine To Dye For tour. Dinner with a view at Da Delfina (Artimino), an elegant seafood dinner at Corradossi (Pistoia), lunch prepared by our olive oil expert at Villa Magia (Quarrata), dinner in a garden at Agriristorante Cocò (Lamporecchio) and a mega-steak at Rafanelli (Pistoia).
The centrepiece of the tour is our two-day workshop with Tommaso Cecchi de' Rossi. Each person makes a handbag designed by Tommaso using leather and cloth they dye themselves. They think of a colour, and Tommaso helps them mix the dye, using wine as the basis. If you want to see how they came out, keep reading. We took some special photos on our repeat tour in September.
Some of our guests had chosen to go straight on to Sardinia for our 5-day Tastes & Textiles: Sea Silk in Sardinia tour.
The favourite day is always the workshop with Arianna Pintus, learning about bissus, a fine fibre from the beard of a mollusc, surrounded in mystery and myth. Arianna also leads us in a creative weaving workshop.
July was all about bread on our brand new Artisan Bread Course Tuscany. A glorious week working with five very different bakers. The first baker we met is Stefano Bechelli (pictured) who runs a family bakery called Pane del Gonzo. He makes his bread pretty much single handedly with the use of modern technology. His flour comes from Tuscany.
Next up was Damiano Donati a talented chef who taught all there is to know about sourdough bread. Of course a lunch prepared by the man himself couldn't be passed up.
Erica scours remote mountains and valleys for unique products for her courses. Crisciolette are found only at the village of Cascio in the Garfagnana. Alessandro Bertolini and his team taught us to make this tasty wheat flour and cornmeal griddle bread, flavoured with pancetta or wrapped around cheese. Another dream came true on this day. Dana wanted to go up to the top of the bell tower. Alessandro just happened to have the key...
The obligatory 'look what we made' photo featuring delicious Garfagnana potato bread which was baked in the wood-fired oven of Paolo Magazzini.
July also brought the launch of the new standalone sourdough panettone course. It's run by a familiar face, Mirko Tognetti, who teaches our gelato courses. Three chefs from India were the first to take the course.
It's a very technical course but Mirko makes it seem easy, and our participants were delighted with their finished panettone!
By popular demand we also launched a short sourdough pizza course with Neapolitan pizzaiolo Onorato Salvatore at his Pizzeria MaryFrank in Lucca. You can take it as a two-day stand-alone or add one or two days with Onorato onto any of our other courses.
As you can tell from this blog, Erica has been so busy running courses and tours, she hasn't had time to put the course on our website. Subito! which should mean soon, but as used by Italian plumbers, means maybe sometime later this month—or next.
We kicked August off with an Art & Science of Gelato course. Day 5 is when our students get to create their own flavours. Arjun chose Kesar Badham, a popular milk, almond and saffron drink in his home country of India. Sublime!
Sometimes one day in a tour isn't quite perfect. Erica managed to squeeze in a research trip to fix it. It was on the Wine to Dye For tour. Naturally we had to taste wine as well as dyeing with it. The morning had started perfectly in the vineyards and tasting room of Fattoria di Bacchereto. The weakness was the time machine in the afternoon that didn't quite make it back to the Etruscan period and, although the view from the restaurant was magnificent, the cooking had become a bit pedestrian now that mamma had retired from the kitchen.
The Tumulus of Montifortini vividly displays the impressive building skills of the Etruscans. Time machine reset. And at the Osteria dei Mercanti in Carignano, she found mamma still in the kitchen. Day solved.
We welcomed our first students from Puerto Rico on the Art & Science of Gelato course in mid-August. Naturally they had to make Piña Colada gelato. Yum!
We were delighted to have some of our students from previous courses come back for the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course in the Garfagnana.
Parmigiano is produced just over the Apennine Mountains from the Garfagnana and several participants took advantage of the short hop over there to see how they do it.
Another wonderful Tastes & Textiles: Wine to Dye for tour took place in September. Our tours are based in the countryside, but we couldn't miss out the Lisio Foundation in Florence, where we see their artisans in action weaving silk velvets and brocade.
Our other destination in Florence was the Scuola di Cuoio (Leather School) at Santa Croce. We learned how to tell the difference between real and faked leather of different animals. All their leather comes from certified sustainable farms.
Copper pots are a dream to cook in, but they require maintenance. We got to watch the process at Antichi Mestieri (Ancient Crafts) where top restaurants send their pots and pans to be refurbished.
Then it was off to Sant'Antioco again for Tastes & Textiles: Sea Silk in Sardinia where we were trying a new hotel right on the lagoon. Perfect! This is where we'll stay for Celebrating Sardinia in April 2023.
One of the highlights is the costume workshop where we can feel the fabric and see the beautiful embroidery and needlework up close.
We decided that a 3500-year-old megalithic tower was the perfect setting to capture the elegance of the bags we had made with Tommaso Cecchi de' Rossi on the Wine to Dye For tour!
Fanfare please for the debut of our new aprons at the final Art & Science of Gelato course of the year. They may not be as cheerful as our old ones, but I know for sure they're not made by slave labour, and the cloth is so nice to touch. They're designed and produced specially for us by Busatti of Anghiari, where we have a private tour during the Woad & Wool tour.
In a little break from longer tours and courses Erica took a family to pick olives and taste oil at Agriturismo Alle Camelie.
The last day of October saw Erica back on the train to Salerno Province for another Mozzarella & its Cousins course. It confirmed we were right to base the course totally in Salerno. The other great improvement is that the last two days of the course take place during production runs at Prime Querce. No need now to stay an extra two days to witness the production.
The winter months brought the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany and students from all over the world. In November we welcomed guests from Finland, the Netherlands, USA, France and Romania.
What better way to end the year than with a nose full of white truffle? Here are two happy guests snuffing the truffle they uncovered on the new Truffle Course. Can you imagine anything better?
I hope you've enjoyed this mega run down of our 2022 tours and courses. We'd love to see you in 2023. Browse the website to find out what's on offer and don't hesitate to contact Erica with any questions.
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Guest blog by Adam S. Thompson, Head Cheesemaker & Partner at OroBianco Italian Creamery (Texas, USA)
I've waited a long time to learn the art of pasta filata. After 15 years of making "mozzarella" or something in that genre, I can finally say I actually know how to make traditional pasta filata cheeses, using water buffalo milk, as it was intended to be produced.
My name is Adam S. Thompson, and I'm the head cheesemaker and partner at OroBianco Italian Creamery — the one and only water buffalo dairy and creamery in Texas. I've been making cheese for over 15 years, with my first one being a quick method mozzarella, using citric acid and store bought milk. Before the buffalo, I had a goat dairy and made an array of cheeses and yogurts from their milk. I've also made sheep and cow milk cheeses at a couple of other operations, and trained in Mexico City on Oaxaca cheese — a pasta filata cheese, but made in a completely different fashion.
I joined the team at OroBianco in September of 2021, however, I had been doing some testing of the milk as early as March of 2021. For the past year, I've made a couple of decent products that somewhat resemble mozzarella, but never could get the texture and flavor of what we really wanted — an authentic buffalo mozzarella, that oozes the milky water out when you bite into it. Made and served fresh and meant to be eaten almost immediately.
While Covid restrictions were preventing me from taking this course, Erica Jarman of Sapori & Saperi helped me as much as possible from afar, even getting a Zoom class going with the former head cheesemaker at Prime Querce farm and dairy. She had also been telling me that I needed to see the process and experience it firsthand to really understand it.
I’ve attempted the mozzarella at least 50 times over the last year, sometimes pushing into the morning sunrise, trying to accomplish this cheese making process. Time and time again, I would get a nice cheese, but not the mozzarella we were aiming for. Finally, in October 2022, I arrived in Campania, Italy, to take the course.
The class was the most educational course I’ve ever received in such a short amount of time. I think it helped I had been trying and failing, as I had many questions to be answered and walls to get over. Any time I had a question, no matter how small or off-topic to the current stage, Erica would wait for the cheesemaker to finish what he was talking about, and field my questions to him.
We trained at two different dairies, Chirico and Prime Querce. Each place had its own methods and variations for the different pasta filata cheeses, but the basics were more or less the same. The cheese making facilities were full of passionate people, who would move like ants at times, in a synchronized, and super-speed fashion at times. I was allowed to make a complete batch at one facility, then work on all of the different stages at another, in the midst of normal production. I had no question left unanswered after this course.
The mozzarella and pasta filata training here was incredible, but there was much more to this course. We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by a very talented sommelier, and did nightly wine tasting, and went to dine at some of the finest establishments I’ve ever eaten at. Some were embellished with gold trim and crystals, serving high-grade steaks, and some were little hidden gems, with the morning’s fresh catch served in unique presentations. We even had a “dinner with friends” where one of the B and B owners invited some locals, and we dined family style in the living room.
The entire course was very organized and maintained on a sometimes very strict schedule, and this ensured we were always where we needed to be to learn, and visit the extracurricular, planned activities. Everything was purposeful and useful to bring these skills back to Texas and incorporate into my cheesemaking, as well as bringing information about the water buffalo themselves back to the dairy.
To anyone wanting to learn the art of pasta filata, this course is a must-take. You won’t call one of these places directly and get a class, and you won’t find these courses online, or marketed on some big cheese website. Most places are very secretive, or do not want to waste the time teaching other people how to make this classic cheese.
The food alone is worth the cost of the course, in my opinion. Of course my focus was always on the cheese making, but the course being completely submerged in the culture, and getting to taste different foods, and wines, from around the terroir left me with an elevated sense of inspiration. The people there were very welcoming, and passionate about their trade. Not only have I finally locked down the mysteries of mozzarella, but found myself returning home and making my own tomato sauce, gnocchi, and other classic Italian dishes for my family.
If you’re “stretching” mozzarella at home or for a dairy/cheesemaking facility, you’re likely doing it wrong. True mozzarella only takes the perfect curd, and almost boiling water, and it “spins” together almost effortlessly. The mozzarella should make you take a step back when biting, so the beautiful, milky whey doesn't get all over you.
So break out the pocket-book, book this course, and get a class that will give you all the tools you need to make mozzarella, as well as fill you with inspiration and the Italian culture that makes this cheese what it is.
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