Parmigiano Reggiano, the king of Italian cheeses.
Making Parmigiano Reggiano is a real art started several hundred years ago by the Benedictine monks in the area between the Po River and the Apennine mountains of Emilia Romagna in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna to the west of Reno River and Mantua to the east part of Po River.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a Protected Designation of Origin product (PDO) and this means that all its features are guaranteed by a system of European rules to protect both consumers and producers. The quality of a wheel depends on the quality of milk and the ability of the cheesemaker.
What makes Parmigiano Reggiano a special product are the people who are capable to produce it.
The cows, Friesian breed, are fed only with the grass grown in the area of Emilia Romagna without silage or animal origin feed and are milked twice a day.
The milk is taken to the dairy within TWO hours of each milking and poured into big vats to rest overnight. The morning after the skimmed milk is put in copper cauldrons together with the milk of the morning. Rennet and whey are added and we start the cooking process, a very delicate phase because the master of the dairy has to check the exact consistency of cheese granules. When a compact mass is formed, it is lifted up from the bottom of cauldrons and divided into two parts called the twins!
Parmigiano cheese is then put in a special steel mold called "FASCERA" where it rests for a few days. Inside the mold, a plastic belt is put to print on a wheel, around the cheese, the identification number of the dairy, the month and the year of production, the name "Parmigiano Reggiano" and an empty space is left for the fire stamp to be put by the Consortium, if after 12 months, the quality of the cheese is good.
The cheese is then immersed in a solution of water and natural salt for about 21 days so that the salt can be absorbed by the wheel to start aging and obtain the unmistakable flavor of Parmigiano, known worldwide.
At the end of the salting process, the cheese wheel is ready to be put in the stock for aging...
After a minimum period of 12 months, each wheel is inspected by an expert of the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano who evaluates the appearance, structure, and characteristics. The fire mark "Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela" including the year of production is applied in the oval mark on the wheel only after passing this inspection, not before.
It is really impossible to taste a piece of Parmigiano without falling in love with it! The Parmigiano Reggiano is the main ingredient of many typical recipes of Modena and Bologna like Tortellini, Lasagne, Passatelli and it used to season many other dishes of Emilian Tradition. To taste and learn more about this unique product you absolutely have to come to Emilia Romagna and book a Food Tour, Your own food tour!