Thirty one days, 15 changes of accomodation and 5500km later, we are back to share with you our tales - and to tell you more about the ingredients you enjoy.

Our sourcing trips are best described as snapshot tours of places. As they have a business rather than holiday purpose (we know they sound like enviable jaunts but you only get the best bits!) we often spend only a day, sometimes two, in a lot of different places, some of which are very picturesque.

We have been buying our salami from Pedrazzoli, a very respected small family run company near Cremona for the last few years, so a stop at their Salumificio in San Giovanni del Dosso was a must.

Although a lot of salami looks the same, just because it is from Italy does not mean it is the same - and in New Zealand there is a lot of 'industrial' salami imported - which is, of course, priced accordingly - and many people are inclined to make their choice not really understanding the huge difference in quality.

Elisa Pedrazzoli, third generation and quite a legend in the business, promised us an interesting educational, including a visit to their pig farm (well, it had been a while - our last pig farm visit was to Celestino Gomez in Cordoba from whom we source our Iberico Bellota jamon).

The day was sunny and the Tomtom navigator -sometimes a source of misdirection - showed us the way without telling us to turn right in tunnels, or left across motorway lanes, so we were there alive and on time at 11am.

Donning the attractive white coat, headgear and foot cover, with camera in hand, we headed into their production area and curing rooms.

Pedrazzoli are unusual as they only use GSP (Gran Suino Padano), which means their pigs are only Italian. The cost is 30% more than pigs of other origins, plus unusually, they actually 'grow their own' as we saw from an afternoon visit with Emmanuele (Elisa's brother), to one of their farms nearby.

The salumificio is an immaculate place - gleaming stainless steel, everything washed and sterilized, curing rooms full of their delicious products ageing naturally, and surprisingly in some areas the most delicious smells (as they do also cook some of their hams) - the waste here being bayleaves and peppercorns rather than anything more gruesome!

The range is far larger than what we currently import, and a large part of their production is free range, 'biologico'.

The recipe for the superior flavour and quality of their salamis is simple: top quality own bred porkmeat, good salt, herbs and natural ageing ('flavours' or 'aromi' on a meat label can also include unstated chemicals apparently - but the only chemical used here is salt). Such a natural approach requires a lot of monitoring of stability and time - the approach of industrial Italian smallgoods companies is much cheaper to achieve, but the flavor and quality is also quite different - compare and taste for yourself.

The mortadella is made for them by a mortadella maker using their meat (different process) in his own plant. The Pedrazzoli pork is the quality difference here giving a silkier texture than the normal 'luncheon sausage' quality, and the truffled one is very strong. Try a piece laid flat on a dinner plate, topped with a salad of microgreens, drizzle with Giusti balsamic and Salvagno oil, and accompany with a wedge of Montanari & Gruzza Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano as a light lunch or entrée.

Lunch was nearby at the Osteria del Maiale (means pork): a very funky little place - part bar, part restaurant, part shop - in a small nearby town, operated by Elisa's trendy Sicilian husband, Gian Piero. Flavoursome Pedrazzoli cured meats were accompanied by homemade mustard fruits (also a specialty of the region), warm gnocco and tagelle - little pillows and rounds of puffed bread, served warm in a paper bag with the top rolled back - very cute. At this point we politely refused the rest of the proffered menu and pleaded for a salad. Food hunting research can make you feel quite full!

After lunch, we visited the farm and Emmanuele proudly showed us the pigs (no sow stalling here) who are fattened slowly, happily and naturally to a heavy weight, and also the wholegrains they use for making their own feed to do this (humans could eat worse) - another point of quality. The surrounding environment here is really quite lovely, and tempting though it was to stay, we headed off towards our next stop...



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