Our Facebook Cheese Study Group will use Tuesdays to focus on Italian-style cheeses which will be presented by ACS CCP® Allin Tallmadge and what better Italian Cheese to begin this series than The King of Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano. Here’s what Allin shared with our group:
If this is Tuesday it must be Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The “King of Cheeses”. That big slippery 82 pound drum with the hard rind that sweats oil on the counter and you have to rub every day and flip.
Most of you will have been in the Cheese community long enough to have seen that wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cracked open. Certainly, you who are mongers have and have probably done the cracking of it at least once.
One of the best known in the world this cheese has an extraordinary amazing aromas and taste and a unique texture.
Parmigiano-Reggiano (also known as Parmesan cheese) is a hard granular cheese with a long and natural maturation.
It’s a highly-concentrated cheese and contains only 30% water and 70% nutrients. This means that Parmigiano-Reggiano is very rich in protein, vitamin and mineral.
Dairy cows making milk for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are mainly fed with hay from the area of origin and are not allowed to eat other fodder (e.g. fermented forage).
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has been “a great cheese for at least nine centuries” Today it is still identical to how it was eight centuries ago, having the same appearance and the same extraordinary fragrance, made in the same way, in the same places, with the same expert ritual gestures. Historical evidence shows that already in 1200-1300, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese had reached its perfect typicality that has remained unchanged until the present day.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna, on the plains, hills and mountains enclosed between the rivers Po and Reno. This is the area hosting four thousand farms where the cattle are fed on locally grown forage. The feeding of cattle complies with the norms of a strict specification that bans the use of silage and fermented feeds.
It takes 550 litres (~145 gallons) of milk to make one wheel weighing ~40kg (88 lbs). There are ~340 dairies (caseificios). Approximately 3,470,000 wheels of cheese were produced last year, about 139,800 tons.
In the production, milk from the evening milking is left to settle and the cream is skimmed off. The morning milk is combined in copper cauldrons with the skimmed milk. Calf rennet is added along with whey from the previous days make. Coagulation occurs in ~10 minutes then the curd is cut into minuscule grains with a tool called a spino.
Curds are cooked to 55 degrees C causing them to form a single mass at the bottom. After resting for 30 minutes the mass is removed, divided in two, wrapped and placed in moulds. The moulded cheese is marked with the required and distinctive markings and set to drain. The wheels are set in a brine tank to salt by absorption for less than a month. After salting, the wheels are removed to wooden boards to dry and form a natural crust. Wheels are brushed and turned continually.
The cheese wheels are matured for 12 month at minimum then examined one by one to determine if they meet PDO requirements. As maturation length grows from 12 to 24 to 36+ months its paste changes in color from pale straw to rich yellow. Tyrosine crystals, little bits of amino acids appear at around 12-15 months and continue to develop through 30+ months enhancing the flavor of the cheese.
Much, much more can be said about this marvelous cheese. Below are some links you can follow to dive deeper.
Some other interesting notes:
In May of 2012 the Reggiano Emilia region was hit by two earthquakes that damaged dairies and cheese making facilities and knocked down maturing racks. Damage exceeded 150 million euros.
A continuing problem is the theft of cheese shipments by organized crime. In 2015 11 were arrested in the theft of 2000 wheels valued to 785.000 euros. Wheels are broken down and sold off in packaged quantities in markets in Southern Italy.
EC No: IT-PDO-0317-0016-26.7.2007
All you need to know but in dense regulation-speak. Great if you like that sort of thing. If your geeky enough, then jump in.
Best site. This from the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium. Established in 1934 by leading Reggiano producers as a Safegurading Consortium.
From Ricky Carroll
Our Facebook Cheese Study Group is raising funds to send worthy ACS CCP exam® candidates and ACS CCPs® who want to attend the 2017 ACS Conference in Denver, Cheese With Altitude. You can apply for a scholarship by clicking here and you can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here. All monies raised (withe the exception of the fees charged by GoFundMe) go to the winners of the scholarship. everyone involved in the scholarship efforts is donating their time and receiving NO fees or monetary compensation… just the feeling of helping those who need our help. Complete rules and information can be found here.