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Adventures Brand Features Hit-Or-Miss

Parmigiano Reggiano’s Impact on Food Culture

A couple hours south of Milan is one of Italy’s most treasured and storied regions that you may not know about. The Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy is a beautiful countryside that encompasses a lush pasture — the ideal place to cultivate epicurean goods. This region is home to important staples of Italian cuisine, with deeply rooted traditions that stretch their influence worldwide, lending itself to be superior producers of ham, balsamic vinegar, and of course Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese) —”The King of Cheeses.”  If your travels ever take you to this land of plenty, it would be easy to see why the culture of food in this region is especially valuable.     

Parmigiano Reggiano is a cheese that bears the weight of centuries old tradition. It carries with it an immortal process of cheese making that has been unchanged since its conception.  The process, developed by the Benedictan monks in the thirteenth century, uses only three ingredients: raw milk, rennet, and salt. With that, they were able to develop a method that safely aged cheese over a long period of time.  To this day, Parmigiano Reggiano, the authentic parmesan cheese can only be produced within the Emilia-Romagna region, using the same ingredients and methods.  

The 352 dairy farms within the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (the union of producers and traders) abide by a strict process in creating this natural cheese.  The process begins by combining fresh, raw, unpasteurized milk from local cows with calf rennet — the enzyme used to jumpstart the curdling process. It is whisked around in a large copper vat, separating the solidifying cheese and the liquids over a short period of time.  Once the cheese completely sinks to the bottom, it is scooped up and molded into a large wheel. It is later brined in salt and is set to mature properly over the course of at least two years before being sold.

This arduous and meticulous process requires a masterful hand to create, and goes on year round without fail.  It makes absolute sense that these wheels (of fortune) cost what they do at market.   

True Italian chefs know that there is no substitute for authentic Parmigiano Reggiano, and it’s potential in dishes soar higher than as just a garnish on a bowl of bolognese.  Unlike its American counterfeit of the grated variety, parmesan in its truest form can be delivered in innovative ways that take advantage of its robust flavor.

Over time, Parmigiano Reggiano was established as a Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP), a product with a protected designation of origin — which means that it is a good produced only in a specific region of Italy, requiring a specific production process that cannot be duplicated elsewhere, due to its association to culture and historical value. 

Parmigiano is truly valued in many frames of Italian culture, especially in the Emilia-Romagna region.  It’s special to all the chefs and gourmands — who value true craftsmanship and artistry; and the pursuit of authenticity.  But especially for the Consortium’s 352 dairy farms and its farmers — the literal nine centuries old art of cheesemaking tradition that spans several generations; all families that are prepared to pass down a noble livelihood to the next generation.  It is pride, passion, and genuine love that is at the center of this story.

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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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Grocery Packaged Food

How To Tell Parmesan And Parmigiano Reggiano Cheeses Apart

Photo: Goncharuk Maks // Shutterstock

What’s the deal with Parmigiano Reggiano vs Parmesan? Is one just a fancy name for the other?

There are more types of cheese on the market today than ever, but one thing remains indisputable: Parmesan is the “King of Cheeses.” This Italian cheese not only makes chicken Parmesan sing, but it adds a boost to your Caesar salads, dresses up your popcorn and turns a regular baked potato into a work of art.

You might be confused at the price difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan at the store, though. Is there an actual difference between the two?

Parmigiano Reggiano vs Parmesan

If your cheese has the words Parmigiano Reggiano stenciled on the side of the rind, it’s the real deal.

Italy has a law called DOC (Denominazione di Origine controllata) which specifies how and where Parmigiano Reggiano can be produced. It’s similar to the rules governing the production of Champagne or tequila. It has to be produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua or Bologna in Italy and follow a very specific recipe to receive the official seal.

That means that anything called by another name (like Parmesan or Reggianito) is an imposter! This “fake” cheese might taste Parmesan-esqe, but it’ll lack the complexity of the certified kind. You can ask your local cheesemonger for a side-by-side tasting; the Parmesan will taste more acidic and saltier when compared to the deeply rich, nutty flavor of the Parmigiano Reggiano.

It’s well worth the price difference!

What About Pre-Grated Parmesan?

If you feel the urge to pick up a bag of pre-grated Parmesan, I recommend that you don’t. There are a couple reasons why you should grate your own cheese. It’ll not only taste better, but it melts more smoothly, too. You should specifically avoid the shelf-stable stuff. That dried cheese has very little flavor and it may contain plant cellulose and chemicals as anti-clumping agents.

We recommend using a rasp grater (like a Microplane) on hard cheeses like Parmesan. The fine teeth create a super-fine shred that’s light and fluffy. You won’t have to use as much cheese, either, stretching that expensive block so it lasts longer. As a bonus, these handheld graters are much easier to clean than the huge box graters, too!

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Article by Lindsay D. Mattison for Taste of Home. View the original article here.

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Recipes

How to Make White Truffle Risotto Served in a Bowl Carved Out of Parmesan

parm edit 1

Roses, chocolate truffles, diamonds… Who wants that perfect love story anyways? Please, son. It’s time you stepped your game up in the kitchen and made her swoon with those semi-pro Iron Chef skills. Plus, nothing says I heart you more than droppin’ some cheddar on 15 lbs of Parmesan!