Parmesan Cheese Diary
The Parmesan Cheese is for sure one the most famous italian cheese. Maybe the best one! To see how a wheel of Parmesan Cheese is produced, it’s a very interesting visit. First of all, the milk and the cheese are worked early in the morning: the “caseari”, the cheese workers, work daily from 05 am to max. 9am.! The diary you will visit was founded in 1926 and it still belongs to the family. This farm, located in our countryside, produces a Parmesan Cheese from a min. of 12 months aged to more than 50months. If you are lucky, you will see also “sfogline”, the ladies who do the handmade pasta for tortellini and tortelloni!
During the tour, the guide will show you the copper tubs where the milk is mixed together with the serum and the rennet; in the mean time, the cheese workers “create” with a special instrument the wheel, very soft and full of liquid, which is put, through a special machine, into a mold that starts to give to the cheese the regular shape, typical of the Parmesan cheese. The second room is the place where the wheels sleep, into a salt water, and where the written “Parmigiano Reggiano” is printed on them…then, the last room you will visit is the “storage”, where hundreds of wheels are aging, months by months. A commissioner of the Parmesan Cheese Consortium, with a specific hammer, listening to the sound of the wheel, understand if it’s good or not!
At the end, you will taste a 24 months aged Parmigiano, together with salami, gnocco (typical bread of Modena), balsamic vinegar and a glass of red wine.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY…
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna (only the area to the west of the river Reno), Modena and Mantua (in Lombardy, but only the area to the south of river Po). Only the cheese produced in these provinces may be called “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and a European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan”, as a protected designation of origin. Outside the EU, the name “Parmesan” can legally be used for cheeses similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, with only the full Italian name unambiguously referring to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It has been called the “King of Cheeses”.
According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created in the course of the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to that produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to far earlier.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated to near total salinity with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years. The cheese is produced daily and it can show a natural variability. True Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a sharp, complex fruity/nutty taste with a strong savory flavor and a slightly gritty texture. Inferior versions can impart a bitter taste. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 40–45 cm in diameter and weighs 38 kg.