We are delighted to welcome Tania, from wonderful blog Peppercornz a self-styled food and culture blog. Tania is a chef living in Scotland with very strong Italian roots and today she proudly talks about Parmigiano Reggiano, the king of cheeses.
A long time ago in the middle ages in northern Italy a star was born. It is one of the most known and imitated cheese in the world.There must be a reason if even the proud French love it.Today we are talking about Parmigiano Reggiano.
The birth of Parmesan cheese.
Every evening the cows are milked, the milk left in large containers overnight.The next morning the floating part will be used for the butter production and so the skimmed milk is poured, with the fresh full fat milk from the morning, in copper cauldrons. Then calf rennet and fermented whey are added. After ten minutes the cheese is coagulated and broken in millions of granules using a specific tool. Here starts the cooking process at 55 °C until the cheese sinks to the bottom forming a single mass, which is left to rest for around half an hour. It’s time now for the cheese to be cut, wrapped in a cloth and placed into moulds that will shape its lovely round face known all over the world. After each cheese is given their ID number, month and year of production, it’s bath time! Every wheel is immersed in a salty solution, now baptised and ready for their life of maturation.
The minimum maturation time is twelve months although the best is considered 24 months. It can also reach 40 months and sometimes even 90.This process take place in big rooms with wooden tables where the wheels rest.Here the cheese forms its natural crust and the maturation stage is always under control of the cheese maker which test and turn constantly the wheels to ensure perfection.
How old is Parmesan cheese?
The answer is nine centuries, maybe more.Boccaccio in The Decameron mentions it (1300 AD).The first to produce this delicacy where the monks in the area of Parma and Reggio in the 12th century.In the 16th century Parmigiano was already known in continental Europe, especially Germany, France and Spain.
Parmesan cheese today
This cheese is one of the few things that remained the same despite the times changing. With its increasing popularity in the world though, the small producers of the real thing had to face big competitors.This is why in 1934 they created a consortium and the name Parmigiano Reggiano was born, defining the production areas: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantova (and a few years later Bologna as well).Finally in 1996 Parmigiano Reggiano is certified as PDO from the EU in order to protect it from imitations and frauds.Parmesan cheese has a long story of quotes, it has been mentioned in many books and people like Casanova, Napoleon, Dumas and Robert Louis Stevenson were Parmesan lovers.
My homage today is to Molière, the French playwright, whose last wish before dying was a piece of Parmesan cheese.