On: January 16, 2013
This name evokes many sensory memories for Americans as nearly everyone has grown up seeing a plastic can of grated white cheese come out on pasta night! However, this is akin to taking a large container of California Chablis and mistakenly thinking you have the real McCoy. One could take a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, close your eyes and smell the rich melted butter, hay, and fruity tones, then taste the savory cheese. You would instantly know that to eat a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano is to literally taste a microcosm of geological, culinary, and cultural history as Italy’s soil, foliage, climate, and the Consorzio del Formaggio (who control its stringent production) influence this glorious piece of food.
European law says that Parmigiano-Reggiano may come from the Italian provinces of Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna in the region of Emilia-Romagna as well as Mantova in Lombardy. There are about 800 small producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano who have to pass rigorous sets of parameters to be certified by the Consorzio, which in turn clearly stamps each wheel with its seal along with the date of production and a unique number identifying the farm it came from. Our cheese here at Dorothy Lane Market is “Extra”, or aged on average of 24 months, and each wheel is tested a second time by the Consorzio, passing standards set to meet top-of-class characteristics. It is then shipped directly from the Malandrone farm to our stores. Several of us from DLM have personally visited “our” Parmesan farm where the cow milking barn is just on the other side of the lane from the cheese producing facility, and we find this cheese to be a bit special in flavor. Sometimes it’s simply referred to as Parmesan, a term coined by the French nobility in the 1500s as the Italian nobility often gave gifts of this cheese simply referred to as Parmesano, or “of Parma”. Obviously, the French term stuck!
Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the many amazing foods that have been made simply and continuously for centuries, and has many amazing traits beneficial beyond its great taste. The free-grazing cows, which are raised naturally, provide the 160 gallons of milk required to make one 85-lb wheel. This natural cheese is 100% lactose free (within 8 hours of being made all of the lactose is transformed to easy-to-digest lactic acid and the galactose metabolize away); is a great source of protein (a oneounce piece provides 20% of our daily need for protein with no additives or preservatives); and of course, is great paired with other foods or on its own with a glass of wine!