Smile, and say Cheese, with Parmigiano Reggiano, the King of Cheese!
Parmigiano Reggiano is used by chefs and food lovers around the world, and is considered the King of Cheese! For eight centuries, this delectable cheese has gained its superstar status thanks to the meticulous process that goes into making every individual wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. Each wheel is aged for a minimum of one year, and goes through a thorough inspection from the Consortium before it can get an official seal of approval.
Below are some fun and interesting facts about the King of Cheese!
- Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano can only be made in five locations in Italy:
- You can find Parmigiano Reggiano in the provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Mantua (south of Po river) and Bologna (west of Reno river)
- In the EU the term/title ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ is legally protected by the PDO – Protected Designation of Origin since 1996
- After a judgment of the European Court of Justice in 2008, the term ‘parmesan’ is also legally protected by the PDO – Protected Designation of Origin. Within the EU borders, only the Parmigiano Reggiano can be called and sold under the denomination ‘parmesan’
- Genuine Parmigiano Reggiano contains an embossed rind with dotted letters that has the name of the cheese, date of production and seal of approval from the Consortium – the rind is edible and contains a lot of flavour. It has been deemed a ‘flavour bomb’ by Rachael Ray.
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese gets more flavourful with age:
- 18-month maturation tends to be mild and sweet
- 24-month maturation develops a grainier and savoury flavor
- 36-month maturation has a strong salty and nutty flavor
- Did you know, not only is Parmigiano Reggiano delicious, it’s also nutritious. Every 30 grams of parmesan contains up to 50 per cent of your daily calcium intake. The cheese is also an excellent source of vitamin A and D, along with iron and potassium.
- Although it’s a dairy product, parmesan can be consumed by people who are lactose intolerant.
- Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese of choice in space, chosen as exceptionally good food for astronauts by both the U.S. and Russian space programs.
- It takes 550 litres of milk to make one wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano and on average, a wheel of cheese weighs 40kg or 85lbs.
- Parmigiano Reggiano contains only three ingredients:
- Milk – raw, unpasteurized milk produced only in the Parmigiano Reggiano area of origin and is delivered within 2 hours from the end of the milking session
- Rennet – a natural enzyme from calf intestine
Parmigiano Reggiano tasting notes and aging description
Parmigiano Reggiano of 12-15 months maturation generally has aromas with a fairly strong lactic note (milk, yoghurt, butter), though not necessarily intense, accompanied by plant notes like grass, boiled vegetables and sometimes flowers or fruit. The taste of the cheese is sweet and acidic at the same time (the acidity is comparable to that of other dairy products like yoghurt). As for the structure, granularity, crumbliness and solubility are barely perceptible, and instead elasticity and compactness still prevail. Parmigiano Reggiano of this age can be pleasantly combined as an aperitif with dry white wines and may be accompanied by fresh fruit such as pears and green apples. It is possible to contrast its fresh delicate flavour with a not-too-spicy chutney (kiwi, apricot, or melon).
At 24-28 months of maturation, Parmigiano Reggiano has reached an optimal age to be enjoyed and to express to the nose and the palate a richness of aromas and flavours in perfect balance and harmony. The fermentation family is enriched and along with milk and butter notes of melted butter can be appreciated. Fresh fruit (banana, pineapple) and citrus fruits make their appearance alongside hints of nuts (walnut and hazelnut) and spices (above all nutmeg). Meat stock (stock cube) can be distinguished. The taste evolves through a balance of sweet and savoury notes. The structure has developed, and the cheese is perfectly soluble, crumbly and grainy. Crystals of tyrosine (a free amino acid) also appear as testimony of the high degree of proteolysis and therefore also of digestibility that the product features. Parmigiano Reggiano of this age can be combined with red wines of varying structure such as Sangiovese di Romagna, Gutturnio or Chianti Classico. It is excellent sliced into slivers onto a fresh fruit salad (pear, apple, grapefruit and orange) and dressed with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena or Reggio Emilia. This cheese can be accompanied by any type of nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts, or figs; it is truly superb combined with plums.
At 36 months of maturation, the cheese is very mature, and the phenomena linked to maturation give rise to results that are more balanced than before. As regards the structure, the cheese is much drier and even crumblier and grainier. Sometimes the crumbliness is so great it makes the product almost sandy. The taste is more distinct, savoury and sometimes even pungent. The aroma reveals notes of spices (nutmeg, pepper), while those of nuts predominate. The aroma of meat stock (stock cube) is evident and the lactic notes can include the scent of the Parmigiano Reggiano rind (an effect of the lengthy maturation). Because of this strong distinctive character, this very mature Parmigiano Reggiano goes extremely well with red wines of body and structure (for example Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello di Montalcino) and with white raisin wines (such as Albana di Romagna) or meditation wines. Try a combination with honey of different types as well as the perfect marriage with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, perhaps even one with a venerable age.
Visit the official website for additional information, recipes, and more fun facts!
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.