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Culture Features Hit-Or-Miss

Most American “Parmesan” is Fake: How to Tell if Yours is Legit

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (commonly known in English as “Parmesan”) is one of the most famous in the world. Nicknamed the “King of Cheeses” in Italy, it’s touted for its nutritional properties and umami-boosting qualities as well as its unique taste and texture. It’s one of the most popular and top-selling cheeses worldwide.

Here’s the problem: many Americans have never tasted real Parmesan.

Within Europe, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product, meaning that, since 2008, only cheeses that comply with a strict set of rules can be sold as “Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO” or “Parmesan.” Like another familiar controlled-origin product, Champagne, in order to qualify it has to be produced within a specific and limited geographic area (which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Mantua, and Bologna) and it needs to be made following a specific process, using genuine raw ingredients that also come from the designated area of origin.

This has led to the rise of fake parmesan cheeses, produced in places like Eastern Europe or South America, sold under similar-sounding names like “Pamesello” and “Reggianito.”

Within the U.S., however, there’s no such regulation, so anything can be sold as “Parmesan,” no matter where or how it’s made — and even if it doesn’t contain any Parmesan cheese at all. In 2012, the FDA investigated a cheese factory in Pennsylvania and found that the cheese it was selling as “100% grated parmesan” was actually cut with fillers like wood pulp and contained exactly 0% real Parmesan cheese, using instead cheaper varieties like Swiss and cheddar. That particular producer was busted and heavily fined due to a tip-off from a former employee, but similar practices are still widespread.

According to Nicola Bertinelli, President of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, which works to promote authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano and fight counterfeit versions, the estimated turnover of fake parmesan worldwide is over 2 billion dollars annually — more than 15 times the amount of genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano exported each year.  


So, if there’s 15 times more counterfeit than genuine Parmesan circulating outside of Europe, are your chances of buying and tasting true Parmigiano-Reggiano slim to none? Actually, no. Here’s how you can avoid the fakes and make sure you’re getting the real deal:

Don’t buy grated cheese

Grated cheese quickly loses its flavor and moisture, so it’s always better to buy whole pieces and grate it yourself anyway, but also, only grated cheese can be adulterated with wood shavings, and real Parmigiano-Reggiano is exported in whole wheels, so buying it in chunks rather than pre-grated is a better way to ensure it’s legit.

 

Buy whole pieces, with the rind, and look for the stamp

The rind of every wheel of genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano is embossed, after inspection and approval by the Consortium, with dotted letters saying the name of the cheese, date of production, and the seal of approval of the Consortium. Always buy whole pieces that still have a portion of the rind attached, so you can see the stamped letters.


Look for the Consortium’s logo.

Pre-packaged pieces of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano will have the PDO seal and the Consortium’s logo printed somewhere on the wrapper.


Look for the batch number.

Every piece of genuine PDO Parmigiano-Reggiano will also be marked with a lot or batch number stamped somewhere on the packaging.

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Cravings Restaurants What's New

Tear Into These Gooey Chicken Parmesan Fries


Give me a plate of fries any day of the week and consider me a content fellow. Now that we live in a renaissance of food, fries have become a canvas for artists to paint their palates.

Big Pink in Miami, FL, is shaking up the French fry game by creating Chicken Parm Fries.

The restaurant starts with thick cut fries that are tossed into hot oil and seasoned. Chunks of chicken are then breaded and deep-fried before joining their potato brethren. Scoops of marinara sauce and a blend of mozzarella and parmesan cheese are added on top of the fries before tossed into the oven. Finally, the dish is finished with a handful of shredded basil leaves.

For fans of the celebrated Italian dish, this iteration of chicken parm is definitely something worth checking out — especially since you can never go wrong with fries.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the world needs to be able to enjoy more foods in French Fry form.

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Products

Parmesan Cheese Pencils

These Parmesan Cheese Pencils were created by agency Kolle Rebbe for The Deli Garage and reportedly available in Germany. The quick rundown, we’re looking at three different types of parmesan cheese flavors dressed like oversized pencils and accompanied by a grater shaped like a pencil sharpener. The package is complete with truffles, pesto, and chili parmesan flavored pencils.

According to information from Jazarah, the first 500 limited edition sets were sold out 2 weeks after the launch.

Categories
Cravings

The Brazilian Hot Dog

Brazil makes their hot dogs just like their women, gorgeous! Check out this beauty, a grilled hot dog topped with mashed potatoes, peas, corn, grated cheddar, parmesan cheese, shoestring deep-fried potatoes, ketchup, mustard and a mayonnaise-sour cream sauce! If I could only be lounging on the coast of Brazil, with a Brazilian woman, eating one of these! That would be the life! (Thx DWAD)