Italian traditions of making cheese find their roots in old medieval times, when monks were inventing various effective ways of using and storing the overabundant cow’s milk. The recipes were passed on from one generation to another, with the manufacturing techniques being mastered and guarded jealously by descendants. The wide array of Italian cheeses was led by Its Majesty the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or Parmesan, as it is named in English.
The cheese takes its genuine name from the areas where it has been manufactured for centuries. Cheesemakers from the two Italian provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia defined its outstanding character and proper making methods. As PDO laws require it to be produced only within these two regions, the original Parmesan cheese price may be rather high.
The classic Parmigiano is an aged cheese typically ripened for 18 to 24 months. It possesses firm and granular, brittle texture. Its distinctive aroma and flavor are acquired during the long and patient maturing process. The longer the cheese ripens, the richer they are. And the same thing is with good wine. So the true connoisseurs describe Parmigiano’s taste as sharp and pungent, with the sweetish tints of dried fruit and melted butter or cooked milk.
Parmesan cheese is a variety of the so called grana cheeses. As the name implies, they are distinguished by their dry, grainy and flaky textures. Although their production methods are mostly similar, each has its own set of rules and guidelines including even the dairy farming practices.
The most demanding regulations refer exactly to Parmigiano. When the whey has run off, the cooked curds are pressed into molds and left for several days. After the wheels are removed, they are salted in brine for about four weeks. Then they are laid to age on wooden shelves in spacious rooms, under highly humid conditions and temperature control. In a year each wheel is tapped with a little hammer to examine its consistency for any faults, and a long thin needle is used to check its scent.
It is a fountain of good things for your health. Parmesan is lactose free and rich in proteins, calcium and vitamin A. Due to its digestibility, the cheese is particularly recommended to athletes, elderly people, children and even toddlers. However, you should consider its sodium content, as it is rather high.
When you buy Parmesan cheese, be sure the ways to use it can be limited only by your fantasy. It is absolutely versatile and ubiquitous. It plays as a sumptuous table cheese, especially when accompanied with olives and cured meat or prunes, dried figs and pears.
Grated Parmesan cheese is a great condiment for a wide gamut of dishes. The cheese will add a piquant zest to whatever you are going to cook. Shave it over salads, sprinkle it over spaghettis and pastas, stir it into soups, sauces and risottos or top burgers with it. Besides, you can make delicious crunchy Parmesan crisps for a fine appetizer, perfect in its simplicity.