Why the name Parmesan – Parmigiano-Reggiano
Parmigiano-Reggiano is called Parmesan in English. It is a hard, granular cheese that is cooked but not pressed. This cheese is named after the areas where it is produced, which is the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena and Mantova, Italy.
Italian law prescribes that only cheese produced in these provinces may be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”. European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan”, as a protected designation of origin.
How is Parmesan – Parmigiano-Reggiano made?
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cow’s milk. To get naturally skimmed milk, milk is held in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate overnight. This skimmed milk and the whole milk of the morning milking is mixed and pumped into copper-lined vats. Starter whey is added, the temperature raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is added and all is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes.
The curd is minced into small pieces, the temperature raised to 55 °C (131 °F) under watchful control by the cheese-maker. The curd settles for 45–60 minutes and then collected in a piece of muslin and divided in two and placed in molds. At this point it weighs around 45 kg (100 lb).
The cheese is put into a stainless steel form that is pulled tight so the cheese keeps the wheel shape. Two days later, a plastic belt imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, a number and the date of production, is put around the cheese. Then it goes into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days and aged for 12 months.
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano, inspects every cheese and it’ll either pass the test and get his stamp of approval or fail and gets marked so consumers know they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano. Modern practice simply have the cheese stripped of all markings.
Parmesan – Use of the name Parmigiano-Reggiano
The name is trademarked and legal exclusive regulation is exercised in Italy, over its production and sale by the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Consorzio. It was government verdict.
Each wheel must meet strict criteria to merit the official seal. Because it is widely imitated, Parmigiano-Reggiano has become a progressively more regulated product and in 1955 it became a certified name. Looking at the process and time it takes to produce Parmesan – Parmigiano-Reggiano, one understands the high price.
In the US the name Parmesan is also used for cheeses which imitate Parmigiano-Reggiano, along with phrases such as “Italian hard cheese”.
BEWARE, if it doesn’t say Parmigiano-Reggiano it IS NOT Parmigiano-Reggiano!
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