Parmigiano Reggiano

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Identikit

Parmigiano Reggiano is a fine cheese known and appreciated throughout the world. It is produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of those of Mantua and Bologna. Produced with raw cows’ milk, it is a semi-fat cheese with a hard, finely granular texture, white or pale yellow in colour with a natural pale yellow rind. It is characterised by a fragrant and delicate but full and never piquant flavour.

labelProtected Designation of Origin (from 1996)

Characteristics

    • Average weight of a wheel: 35 Kg
    • Diameter: 35-45 cm
    • Height: 18-24 cm
    • Fat content: min. 32%

Ageing

    • From 12 to 18 months
    • Over 18 months
    • Over 22 months
    • Over 30 months

History

Parmigiano Reggiano boasts a unique and remarkable history dating back nine centuries and is still today made in the same places and with the same techniques. 

The origins of this cheese lie in the Middle Ages, generally placed around the 12th Century. The first cheese houses appeared in the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of Parma and Reggio Emilia: thanks to the abundance of water courses and ample pastures, this circumscribed area of the Emilia region soon saw the spread of production of a hard cheese, obtained via the scalding of the milk in large vats.

Parmigiano Reggiano is still made today using the same ingredients as nine centuries ago, in the same places and in the same highly skilled manner. The master cheesemakers continue to produce this cheese with high quality milk zona d’origine, natural rennet, salt and no additives, by hand and with the same passion and integrity. The recent history of Parmigiano Reggiano is represented around 380 small traditional cheesemaking firms in the designated area, representing around 3,500 milk producers who have obtained legal recognition of their determination to conserve unaltered the production methods and the extremely high quality of their cheese.

It is the story of how the guarantee of the genuine qualities of Parmigiano Reggiano is today absolute thanks of precise regulations, applied with strict self-discipline and rigorous controls.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a cheese that has been safeguarded for over 70 years by the Consortium for its protection and loved for over nine centuries for its ever generous flavour.

Territory

Parmigiano is born out of its territory and the skills of the people who make it. It is made today just as it was nine centuries ago: the same ingredients (milk, salt, rennet), the same care and passion and the same area of origin.

The production of the milk and its transformation into cheese take place in the provinces of:

  • Parma
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Modena
  • Bologna, to the left of the River Reno
  • Mantua, to the right of the River Po

There is, in fact, a concentration of over 4,000 agricultural firms producing quality milk and the over 400 cheesemaking firms that transform it every day and that age the cheese for a minimum of 12 months through to two years and over, day after day.

Production

Registered livestock farms

Parmigiano Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna, in the plains, hills and mountains enclosed between the Po and the Reno:  here are found the farms on which the cattle are raised on fodder produced in the area. The feeding of the animals is strictly regulated to prevent the use of ensiled or fermented fodder.

Milk processing

Parmigiano Reggiano is made with the skimmed milk of evening milking added to the full milk from morning milkings. Poured into the typical copper vats with the shape of overturned bells, the milk is enriched with natural rennet and the starter culture: in this way the coagulation takes place. The curd is fragmented by the master cheesemaker into miniscule granules using a traditional stirrer known as a spino. This operation is followed by a slow scalding phase that reaches 55°C, after which the curd granules precipitate to the bottom of the vat, forming a single mass that is extracted by the cheesemaker and moulded to form the wheels of cheese. Around 600 litres of milk are required for each wheel.

Marks of origin

Each wheel is assigned a casein plaque with a unique and progressive number: this is the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO identity card. With a special branding mould  fascia marchiante the wheels are incised with the month and year of production, the registration number of the cheesehouse and the unmistakeable dotted script around the full circumference.

Salting

After a few days the wheels are immersed in a saturated solution of water and salt: this is salting by osmosis. This final phase concludes the production process for Parmigiano Reggiano and is followed by that of ageing stagionatura.

Ageing

The wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano are arranged in long rows and left to rest on wooden tables. In this way the outer part of the cheese dries to form an untreated natural rind that is entirely edible. Ageing lasts for a minimum of 12 months and it is at this point that only those wheels that pass a selection continue ageing for 24 months or more. The experts esperti del Consorzio di tutela examine each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano and only after they give their approval are the wheels PDO branded Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP). All marks and the dotted script are removed from those wheels that do not meet the PDO requirements. Time transforms the cheese; during ageing, Parmigiano Reggiano acquires its typical granular texture with its characteristic flaking fracture pattern and becomes friable and soluble. The ageing process confers extraordinary characteristics upon Parmigiano Reggiano which differ in relation to the length of the period of maturation. For this reason a system of coloured stamps has been introduced to assist consumers in the choice of products by identifying the various stages of ageing of Parmigiano Reggiano.

RED STAMP – Aged for over 18 months
Characteristics: Fairly accentuated lactic base, accompanied by vegetal notes such as grass, boiled vegetables and, at times, flowers and fruit.
Pairings: Ideal cut into cubes for an aperitif, preferably paired with dry white wines and fresh fruit such as pears and green apples.

SILVER STAMP – Aged for over 22 months
Characteristics: The aromas are accentuated with notes of melted butter and fresh fruit, citrus notes appear along with hints of dried fruit. The cheese evolves with a balance of sweet and savoury, is perfectly soluble, friable and granular.
Pairings: Perfect with fairly full-bodied red wines. Excellent when cut into petals and incorporated in a fruit salad with traditional balsamic vinegar form Modena or Reggio Emilia. Ideal accompanied by any dry fruit, it is superb with prunes and figs.

GOLD STAMP – Aged for over 30 months (stravecchio)
Characteristics: This cheese, the richest in nutritional elements, is drier, friable and granular. The flavour is sharper with more complex aromas.  Spice and dried fruit notes are predominant.
Pairings: Both with complex, full-bodied red wines and passito white wines. To be tried with honey and the perfect partner for traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena or Reggio Emilia.

Nutrition

Parmigiano Reggiano contains only 30% water and no less than 70% nutritional substances: for this reason it is a cheese extremely rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Healthy, tasty and digestible

Parmigiano Reggiano is rich in essential and easily assimilated amino acids thanks to the presence of enzymes that modify the casein and make it highly digestible: for this reason is also recommended for those intolerant of proteins from cows’ milk. It is also characterised as a lactose-free food. Parmigiano Reggiano has a lower fat content than most other cheeses as it is produced with partially skimmed milk.

Rich in calcium and nutritional substances

No less than 16 litres of a high quality milk from the area of origin are required to produce a kilo of Parmigiano Reggiano. A nutritional charge of proteins, vitamins, phosphorus and calcium that concentrates in the curd and remains alive during the long period of ageing. Natural ageing makes Parmigiano Reggiano easily digested and allows it to develop a complexity of extraordinary aromas and flavours.

Good for all ages

Parmigiano Reggiano is a perfect ally for health and psycho-physical wellbeing.  Rich in nutritional substances it is indispensible for children’s growth, the health of adolescents and the elderly and to provide ready energy for those practicing sport sport.

In the kitchen

Exquisite on its own as an aperitif or snack, Parmigiano Reggiano is used in numerous traditional Italian recipes. Insuperable when grated to enhance first courses, from pasta to soups, from rice to other cereals. Suitable as an ingredient in all gratin recipes, it may be used to flavour filled pasta, potato cakes, lasagne and stuffed vegetables; combined with egg it may be used to make delicious fritters; mixed with meat it enhances meatballs and meatloaves.

Conservation

When you purchase a piece of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano or when it is taken out of a vacuum pack it should be kept in the refrigerator at a temperature of between 4 and 8°C. It is advisable to use glass or plastic containers. Another practical solution is to wrap the Parmigiano Reggiano in food standard plastic film.