A visit at Parmigiano Reggiano for a cheese lover as me is a must! Since I started to eat as a kid cheese has been one of the most important parts of my diet! As a 3,5 year old I could eat a whole cheese alone! That was actually a big part of my diet as I didn’t like much else.. Today I do, but cheese is still important! So what do they do at Parmigiano Reggiano that makes their cheese so special? Is it magic, not really. Just like Parmigiano Reggiano is the only cheese that is allowed to be called Parmesan cheese, do you actually even know what parmesan cheese is?! I didn’t until not long ago, so keep on reading and I will try to explain everything for you in a easy way! First of all, Parmigiano Reggiano the King of Cheese as it often is called has to be produced within the 10.000 km² area of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Mantova at the right side if the river Po and Bologna at the left side of the river Reno. This protected area produce milk that contains a special bacterial flora due to its environment. What the cows eats matters, and where it grows matters. As always there is many factors, and in the end we get this cheese with its special flavor, texture and it’s pale hard golden rind. Within EU Parmigiano Reggiano is a protected designation of origin, PDO. (DOP in Italian. This refers to that the cheese only is manufactured in this limited area up in northern Italy. So what do they do then when they produce this piece of cheese?
First of all there is some nice cows eating some fresh hay and grass, the milk is controlled so that it holds a certain standard. It is then delivered to one of the 330 dairies in the area. And they use around 9000 liters milk a day! The whole milk from the morning is mixed with the naturally skimmed milk of the previous evening, so that it becomes a part skim mixture. The milk is then mixed with some fermented whey.
The pots are 1,8 meter tall and are produced in the area.
The milk then coagulates and then little granules is formed. Then the cooking process starts and the cheesy granules sink to the bottom and forms into a big mass. After resting for around half an hour the cheese mass is ready to be moved.The big cheese mass is cut into two and then wrapped an a typical cheese cloth. It is not an easy task to move the heavy cheese! They are then put into moulds that will give it it’s final shape. They press them down in the plastic forms. They has to stay in the plastic form for 24 hours so that the liquid will disappear. Each cheese is given a special number with date, and its cheese dairy number. It is then moved to a ”Fascera”, a metal form. The wholes in it makes it cool down faster. After a few days the cheese are immersed in a water and salt saturated solution. This process of salting by absorbtion makes it within less than a month close the production cycle and then it starts to mature.And then they all end up in the cheese ”bank”. Each one weighs about 40 kilos and for one cheese wheel they use about 550 liters of milk. They are stored for at least 24 months. The cheese is quality controlled by a representative from the consortium and then divided in two different categories, Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmigiano Reggiano Mezzano.
An amazing fact, the cheese bank holds about 200.000 cheese wheels! And each one is worth about 500 Euros! Some of the dairies has a shop and a restaurant, we had a cheese tasting here. And I bought around 3 kilos of Parmigianno!
Photo Malin Nordblom
Fab Foodie Swede
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Thank You Parmigiano Reggiano for letting me come with you at this trip!