On my recent trip to Parma, Italy — with a wonderful group of food enthusiast travelers — we got to see up close and first-hand how true parmigiano reggiano is made.
Parmesan is not parmigiano reggiano. Only the cheese made in the region of Emilia, in Parma, from very special cows, and stamped parmigiano reggiano is the real thing.
We witnessed the new milk, delivered that morning, swirling in huge heated copper vats.
After rennet is added, just a couple of hours later, the workmen pull a 200-lb. ball of cheese from the whey.
They cut that huge wad of goodness in two. And each of those halves (100 lbs. each) becomes a wheel of parmigiano.
At first it sits in a plastic form, with a band surrounding it to imprint (like brail) the name parmigiano reggiano, and the number representing this particular facility/manufacturer.
Then it goes into a curved form, gets submerged in brined water for some days. And then left to dry and age for no less than 12 months.
At the end of the tour, we tasted the 12-month, 24-month, and 30-month cheese. Of course, we bought some to bring home. Prices from this manufacturer were so modest. After all, we were right there– right there where they made the cheese. In the beautiful countryside of Parma.
Our guide had just recently gained access to this facility. So our tour felt super-exclusive. If you are ever in the area do look up Stefania Bertaccini. She knows all about Parma’s wonderful products, can guide you on tours, and host/teach fabulous cooking classes.