The Origins and History of the area
Written by Marco Saccani
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 08:08
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Around the third century AD, the Saxon Population from the German Elba Region, nicknamed “Longobardi” because of their long beards, started moving South. They stopped their migration in the Po plain in Northen Italy, giving the name Lombardia to that large area, as it is still called today. During the migration they fed themselves by breeding pigs, which ate acorns from oak forests. There are traces of the pigs breeding in the origin of the name of Milano, in Merchants street (very close to Piazza del Duomo), on the Governor Building (built around the 13th century), where you can find several carved bas-reliefs depicting a special sort of pigs, half covered with wool (in Latin: Medio(Half)-Lanum(Wool)); hence the name of the city “Mediolanum”, which later became “Milano”. But it was very difficult to preserve the pork meet overtime, especially in hot weather ( no refrigerators at that time!), so some religions prohibited its consumption (Islam- Jewish).

So the Longobards started using at least 2 different ways to store pork meat: by smoking it or by salting it; during their nomads years the easiest way was to smoke it. Still today in the Northern East of Italy the preparation of the speck (typical cold cut) comes from smoking of pork meat. Other traces of smoking food can commonly be found in Northern Europe.

Part of the Longobard population settled down in a special area of the Po lowland: Salsomaggiore, where thousands of years ago there was the sea, that later disappeared because of terrible earthquakes from which the Alps grew up, but some of the sea water remained trapped underground. This sea water trapped underground was discovered by the Romans after several centuries and turned to be the largest reservoir of salted natural water in the world, a real treasure, because salt at time was used as money to buy things and to pay the Roman soldiers, from which the word “Salary”. The fact that the salt was found far from the sea made it even more precious, hence the other name : White Gold.

This was the right place to settle down: fertile hills, lowlands, forests and rivers where hey, wheat and corns could be easily grown. Since a thousand years the production process has improved based on the know-how of the period, in order to get the best quality long shelf life food using salt, and without any waste. The cows were fed with the hey of farmers own fields; the milk was used to prepare a special cheese which had to stay 24 days in a saturated water and salt solution and could then last for 60-70 months ( the king of cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano). With the second curd they obtained a fresh and light cheese: the Ricotta (cooked twice). The remaining of the production, the “scrap”, was then mixed with bran and corn flour to prepare the food for the pigs. The porks were slaughtered in winter time and their meet was preserved under salt utilizing every part, without any waste: the bristles were used to manufacture paint brushes; the bones and cartilage for broth and soap production; the nails were utilized to produce glue; from the skin dresses and shoe strings were made; the meet was transformed in the best traditional cold cuts. In this way the Farm was self sufficient. In the Middle Age ( ………. ……….), because of the above reasons, this wealthy fertile land became the battlefield between the two strongest powers of the time: The Guelfi, representing the Pope, and the Ghibellini, faithful to the Emperor.

Today we can still admire the inheritance left by these brave men in the several castles, ancient walls, fortifications and churches witnessing the importance given to every single hill for defending of their land. After more than one thausand years the area is still well known for the processing of food; here you can find many small farmers, as well as big food factories such as Barilla, Parmalat, Parmacotto, and Negroni; they all obey to the very strict rules dictated by the local Production Consortium, the DOP rules for the Consortium of Parmiggiano Reggiano, the Consortium of Prosciutto di Parma, and the Consortium of Culatello di Zibello.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 13:06