Among the many wonderful food products making Emilia Romagna the Italian “food paradise”, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is for sure the King.
The production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is spread around the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova: 339 Parmigiano Reggiano producers, called “Caseifici”.
In this area is produced the whole amount of the Parmigiano Reggiano sold in the world: almost 3.500.000 pieces every year.
The visit of a Parmigiano Reggiano producer is an authentic experience, extremely informative and useful. A must do and a very good reason among many others to come to Emilia Romagna!
Some of our guests after the visit said: “I will never say again that Parmigiano is expensive and now I have a much bigger respect of it!”
Making Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard daily work, same movements are constantly repeated but at the same time it is magic.
The Parmigiano “recipe” is very simple: 14 litres of fresh cow milk for making a kilo of Parmigiano, rennet, salt, no additives nor preservatives, 24 months of average aging, but the main secrets are the hand and the experience of the “Casaro” who follows every single day of the year, every single step of the production. It is not possible to make a Parmigiano wheel with a machine.
From fresh milk added with rennet and warmed, after several steps, in a couple hours you get a wheel of 45-50 Kilos.
The origin of cheese making in Parma area dates back to the Age of Bronze!
Some traces of this cheese have been found in literature: in the land of milk and honey – also known as “Bengodi” or “Cuccagna” – it was described by Boccaccio in the “Decameron” as a delicacy for the palate.
“Et eravi una montagna tutta di formaggio Parmigiano grattugiato, sopra la quale stavan genti, che niuna altra cosa facevan, che fare maccheroni e ravioli e cuocerli in brodo di capponi, e poi li gittavan quindi giù, e chi più ne pigliava, più se n’aveva. Giovanni Boccaccio, Decamerone, 1351
Historian reports the beginning of Parmigiano during the Middle Ages when monks belonging to the Benedictine and Cistercian orders in the area of Parma and Reggio Emilia intensified agricultural activities where animals work was needed. Cows breeding brought with it the desire to store exceeding milk for times of scarcity. Then it’s a story of intensified trades with Italian kingdoms and its blowing beyond the Alps towards those countries who were intrigued by its taste.
A few people know about a French legacy of Napoleon troops that invaded Italy, in Parmigiano Reggiano production: cheesemakers today still measure milk temperature using the French Scale “Réaumur” instead of “Celsius”.
In the centuries the techniques, the way of aging the cheese, the possibility to control the temperature of cooking and aging, helped, developed and improved a lot the production, but the Parmigiano Reggiano is still made in the same way it was made 900 years ago.
Most recent times have met the importance of the Consortium, gathering every single “caseificio”, checking wheels quality and setting rules regarding the way cows have to be nourished and wheels aged to be a DOP.
Parmigiano Reggiano boasts several leaderships: it is considered – with the blessing of France- the King of the cheeses and, by consequence, it is the most counterfeited cheese in the world.
All these information do not help in doing the most important thing: recognizing the authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. In order to discover the Parmigiano that fits your tastes, it takes experience and many tastings.
Here are some suggestions you might use at your trusted cheese shop to know if you are buying Parmigiano Reggiano instead of Parmesan or any other bad and illegal copy:
- buy Parmigiano from shops selling Parmigiano Reggiano in typical round wheels
- do not buy already grated cheese
- check if the external part of the wheel of Parmigiano carries the traditional stamp of the Consorzio
- check if the external part of the wheel is carved
- ask which is the cheese producer code
- eventually, taste it!
Come to taste and discover with us all the hidden secrets of Parmigiano Reggiano!
Marcello and Raffaella Tori invite you to come and taste Italy in an authentic, up close, and personal way. Everything is arranged, from food and wine tastings to cooking lessons, walks in the countryside and meanders through beautiful villages. Marcello and Raffaella live in Bologna and have over 20 years of experience working with people just like you who want to taste all Italy has to offer. Their unique experiences are enduring in their simplicity and authenticity. Join us for a day trip or a 4-7 day tour and taste and see amazing Italy through the eyes of Marcello and Raffaella. What are you waiting for? Come and Taste Our Italy! Find our more at bluone.com and follow us on BluoneCookingWineToursItaly/.
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