Sunday, October 16, 2011

THE KING OF CHEESES

Anyone familiar with Mario Batali knows what cheese I'm referring to:  parmigiano reggiano.  Now, I grew up eating very little Italian food.  When my mom made spaghetti she made the sauce with a packaged spaghetti sauce to which she added tomato paste and water - along with a pat of butter!  To top off this dish there was that ubiquitous green can, so well known on most American tables when I was growing up.  For some unknown reason, that stuff in the green can just never appealed to me - perhaps my taste buds knew they should be saving themselves for the real deal in years to come!  Last fall, on our grand tour of Italy, we were finally able to visit Emilia-Romagna, home of parmigiano reggiano, and to see it being made.

While I don't remember all the details about the process, but I can tell you that to be authentic parmigiano-reggiano cheese it must first of all be made within the designated region.  It must also be made from the milk gathered from two different milkings:  the milk that's collected in the evening has to sit and be treated, then it's mixed with the milk from the morning milking, stirred in giant copper vats.  The curds are then gathered up in cloth, drained, set in forms, and left to sit in a salt water bath for several days.  After that the wheels of cheese are stacked on shelves where they age for anywhere from 18 to 24 months.  Making parmigiano reggiano is serious business, and each batch of cheese must meet strict standards and must pass a taste test  conducted by a panel of experts before it can have 'Parmigiano Reggiano' emblazoned on its rind.

Here are some pictures from our tour:

2 Comments :

At 10/18/2011 05:25:00 AM , Anonymous Jess Luckett said...

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At 10/19/2011 03:31:00 AM , Blogger Gil said...

When Anne and I visited our daughter who was doing her junior year in Florence in the Spring of 1998 we visited a farm that produced parmigiano reggiano. They were finished with tours when we got there and we went to the store to buy some cheese. The farmer's wife was so impressed talking to our daughter, in Italian, about how her great grandfather's family produced Italian cheese in upstate New York during WWI that she got her husband to give us a private tour. I just loved it. When we were kids we always called the stuff in the green can sawdust!!!

 

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