Parmigiano Reggiano cheese guide: all you need to know about of the king of Italian cheeses
Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of hard cheeses. Produced with raw cow’s milk, it matures from a minimum of 12 months (young) up to 36, when it becomes very old. In 1996 it obtained DOP recognition. To produce a kilo of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese you have to use 16 liters of milk, for an entire form you need 550 liters. Numbers that make us understand the consistency and quality of this amazing Italian cheese.
What does Parmigiano Reggiano taste like?
We are talking about a handmade product, the result of slow processing: like wine, Parmigiano Reggiano is considered a living product.
The crust is gilded, covered with the unmistakable dotted inscription and bears the PDO mark, the matriculation number of the dairy and the month and year of production to guarantee quality.
The inside is grainy, flaky, with tiny, straw-colored holes, lighter when produced with milk from hay-fed cows. As it ages, the tyrosine crystals appear and the color becomes darker.
The aroma of Parmigiano Reggiano is intense, buttery, with notes of flowers and meat broth, hints of nutmeg. The flavor is unmistakable, pronounced, a symphony of sweet and umami flavors, milky, we could say it is almost a juice of milk, flowers, and hay. As it ages, the sweetness is enriched with savory and herbaceous flavors, but it is never spicy or pungent.
Where is Parmigiano Reggiano made?
Parmigiano Reggiano is the son of the Emilian terroir that includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, to which is added the area south of the Po, in the province of Mantua and the Bolognese municipalities to the west of the Reno river.
A little history of Parmigiano Reggiano: who invented it?
The history of this noble cheese has been linked since its inception to the characteristics of the Po Valley, which has always been famous for its great fertility, in which green pastures and abundant waterways have encouraged flourishing cattle breeding.
This is why we are not surprised when Columella, in his prodigious De Re Rustica, tells us that already in his time an ancestor of Parmigiano Reggiano raged on the tables of Roman foodies.
The Parmigiano we all love was born in the Middle Ages, in the Emilian monasteries, thanks to the impulse given by the Benedictine monks to the revival of the arts and crafts that swept Europe in the first centuries of the year one thousand.
In his Decameron, Boccaccio also mentions Parmigiano Reggiano, when he tells us that in the land of Bengodi there was a mountain of grated Parmesan, from which jokers threw ravioli and macaroni cooked in capon broth.
Production and maturing of Parmigiano Reggiano
The production methods still follow the ancient recipe of the monks and it uses only milk coming from local farms, which feed their cows with grass, alfalfa, and hay. Each type of silat feed is strictly banned.
The milk of the last evening milking is left to rest in the tanks and in the morning the dairyman, skim the cream that will be used for the production of butter and adds the morning milk.
The “double milk” is placed in the typical copper boilers, graft serum is added and in the meantime, the temperature is brought to 33 ° C. At this point, the rennet is placed and within a quarter of an hour, the curd is formed and then broken into small grains of the size of rice grains with the special tool called spino (thorn).
The temperature is gradually raised to 55 ° C, the granules decay on the bottom forming a single mass, which is extracted with hemp cloth and cut into two parts, which are then placed in the wooden molds for 24 hours so that may lose excess serum.
After a couple of days of drying, a period of 25 days of brine follows, then the cheese is ready for aging, which lasts a minimum of one year.
Entering the maturing room of a Parmigiano cheese factory is a mystical experience, like entering a museum, with many works of art lined up on wooden boards that defy the passing of time. A visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano producer should be added to your “99 things to do before you die” list.
Which wine goes well Parmigiano Reggiano?
Parmesan is the meditation cheese par excellence, however, it is also excellent when accompanied by pears and dried fruit or grated on porcini mushrooms, with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, celery and walnuts.
For its intense and full flavor, we recommend fruity white wines such as Ribolla Gialla del Collio, sparkling red wines such as Lambrusco di Castelvetro or peppery Syrah. Champagne, sparkling Malvasia or prosecco are all welcome too when you need a sharp wine to cut the thickness of the noble cheese.