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It must be the real thing.

Among the crpes and the cupcakes, the handcrafted beers and the olive oils, visitors to Taste of Birmingham will be able to learn about a drive to protect and promote some of Europe's culinary gems.

Exhibitors at this year's show include Discover the Origin, a three-year campaign backed by the European Union, France, Italy and Portugal, which is seeking to raise awareness about the provenance and production of five much-loved foods and drinks.

The publicity push also hopes to create further understanding of the coveted seals of approval that ensures products comes from a specific geographic location and that they cannot be made to the same exacting high standards anywhere else in the world. Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO, status, is one of the consumer guarantees being highlighted by Discover the Origin, together with Appellation d'Origine Contrle (AOC) and Denomina...o de Origem Controlada (DOC).

Food or drinks carrying these labels give an assurance of quality and a guarantee they come from the area where they claim to be produced. None of them contains artificial additives or preservatives.

Of the five products being promoted by Discover the Origin, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Parma ham have PDO classification, Burgundy wines is AOC and port and Douro Valley wines have DOC protection.

All of the these drinks and products will be on show to try and buy. Exhibitors will be bringing huge wheels of the famous Italian cheese and will give visitors tastings of different ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano so they can compare the range of flavours. There are, in fact, three categories of the cheese - red stamp, for cheese matured for more than 18 months; silver stamp, matured for more than 22 months; and gold stamp, an extra strong 30-months matured cheese, which has a drier, grainier texture.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova, crafted using traditional methods handed down over eight centuries. It takes 600 litres of milk to make a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, weighing 38kg. There will also be samples of Parma ham, the slicing of which can be as complicated as its production. The hams have to be produced and cured in the hills around Parma and the pigs have to come from ten northern and central Italian regions. It is said that there are only four ingredients for Parma ham: pork, salt, air and time. The final curing takes a minimum of a year and up to 30 months.

The finished ham should be sliced in paperthin, translucent slices (never in advance) and the outer layer of fat is not trimmed. Surgical precision is required when using a speciality knife. Thicker slices are used for recipes that require dicing.

Richard McComb For more information about all of the products go to www.discovertheorigin.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 8, 2010
Words:475
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