Our strength points
- A VALUABLE CHEESE THAT WORTH ITS PRICE
- "IT IS NOT MANUFACTURED, IT IS MADE" A SLOGAN THAT TELLS THE TRUTH
- SLIVERS OF TASTE AND HEALTH IN A BALANCED DIET
- GOOD FOR YOU AT ANY AGE
- THE LONG MATURATION THAT GIVES TASTE AND DIGESTIBILITY
- TYROSINE CRYSTALS, PRECIOUS INDICATIONS OF GOOD SEASONING
- NATURALNESS THAT DISTIGUISHES US FROM OTHER HARD CHEESES
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is often one of the most expensive cheeses when it is bought at delicatessen counters or at supermarkets. However, we can make some considerations in this respect and prove that it is not exactly like that. First of all, it is a hard-paste and long-maturation cheese. This means that its water content is only approximately 30%, i.e. it is a highly concentrated cheese, where the nourishing substances present in milk (casein, fat, mineral, vitamins, etc.) undergo a special drying process, or more appropriately dehydration process, both during production in the dairy and in the maturation rooms. Therefore, when you buy a hundred grams of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, you are actually taking home about 70% nourishing substances. Instead, if you buy other soft or fresh cheeses (which can also be very tasty) the water content can be up to 50%. The quantity of nourishing substances bought is definitely not the same.
You must also consider that to achieve its top quality level, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese takes at least 24 months. This means that at least two years go by between the moment the cheese is made and the time the consumer purchases it to eat it, so that producers and maturers will not earn any money for all this time and, as you know, “time is money”, or better the money invested is costly!
Finally, we should not forget that the dairy cows making milk for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are mainly fed with hay from the area of origin and are not allowed to eat other fodder (e.g. fermented forage) which is cheaper, but would give rise to quality problems during the maturation phase. We say all this to prove that it is not only a valuable cheese, but it is also worth its price.
It is not an advertising gimmick, it is actually true! Parmigiano-Reggiano is made every day by many cheese masters who turn milk into cheese. Certainly, the milk processed is a special kind of milk, coming from cows fed in a certain way and this does facilitate the cheese masters’ task, but it does not make it easy. Cheese masters really make cheese using their hands and heads. It is their decisions that determine the cheese quality. They decide how long the evening milk should rest to let the cream rise, they decide how much fermented whey and how much rennet should be used, they supervise the cooking stage to check the degree of dehydration of the curd grains by touching them with their hands. Then, they spend their time taking care of the cheese through every stage until complete maturation is achieved. Two important things must be pointed out. Firstly, this transformation from milk into cheese takes place without any processing aids, i.e. without any additives (no additive is allowed in the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) to correct faults caused by milk quality non-conformities. Secondly, this work, which is truly an art, is carried out every single day without interruptions, including Sundays and holidays because the milk, which is raw, must be processed every day and cannot be preserved in any way.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a resource, brought to us by nature and the labours of men, combining health and flavour within a balanced diet.
The organoleptic and nutritional characteristics of Parmigiano-Reggiano are the result of precise production decisions developed over the years, which have subsequently been formalized and established as fixed for the past 70 years, that is since 1934, when the Consortium for its protection was founded and the production guidelines, pivotal for PDO status - Protected Designation of Origin, established.
Its characteristic elements are: the use of raw milk, which is delivered to the cheese dairy directly after each milking; no additives whatsoever; the use of natural fermenting agents alone and a minimum aging period of 12 months.
The perception of Parmigiano-Reggiano not just as a wholesome product, but as a healthy, nutritional one as well, is a result of the long production tradition and its ties to the area of origin, which together have made this cheese one of the outstanding symbols of Italian-made foods.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is extremely rich in free amino acids. Easily digested by the body, they are produced by the transformation of casein, a milk protein, during the lengthy aging period. During this phase other minor compounds are also formed due to protein breakdown, e.g. peptids, which determine the organoleptic characteristics of the cheese and aid its digestion.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a semi-fat cheese, obtained by partial skimming of the milk. This lipidic component is precious, nutritionally speaking, for the instantly useable energy provided by its free part.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is very rich in calcium, is particularly bioavailable and is also an important source of phosphorous. 50 g covers 50% of an adult’s RDI. These values also apply to lactose-intolerance sufferers in that Parmigiano-Reggiano is lactose free.
Biochemists and dieticians agree that Parmigiano-Reggiano holds a privileged position among our natural products. It is recommended not only for a variety of culinary uses (as a plain table cheese, as a dressing or ingredient in exquisite and wholesome dishes, or as a dessert), but also as an important component in prescribed diets to meet the special needs of sickness or old age. Paediatricians, for example, advise mothers and nurses to enrich baby foods with Parmigiano-Reggiano. During the subsequent years of growth, the calcium, phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals of the cheese provide excellent nutrition for the growing body.
Parmigiano-Reggiano should of course be included in any sensible adult diet as well, not only as a basic ingredient of the Italian cuisine, but even in a new way with pears, apples, peaches, figs, grapes, etc. It is an ideal food because it includes a substantial number of food elements necessary for sustenance and especially because it ensures excellent bodily well-being.
This has led athletics trainers and sport dieticians to discover the special contribution Parmigiano-Reggiano provides for the diet of athletes and people who practise sport, precisely because it is nutritious without weighing down and is easily digested.
We can say that maturation is fundamental to determine the aromas and texture of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Based on the production regulations, this cheese can be called “Parmigiano-Reggiano” only when it is 12 months old, but if left to mature for another year it will change radically. Cheese masters and inspectors say that cheese must pass “two summers”, i.e. it must undergo the enzymatic transformations that determine the changes in Parmigiano-Reggiano paste, which are more intense in summer because of the heat. These changes caused by the enzymes released by lactic bacteria mainly consist in the breakdown of the cheese protein chain (caseins) that are split into many small pieces of protein chain. This leads to the partial release of the fundamental “bricks” of the protein chain, i.e. amino acids. The reason why Parmigiano-Reggiano is more digestible than other cheeses is that the breakdown by these enzymes acts as a pre-digestion stage. Fat undergoes similar modifications thereby becoming more easily absorbed by the body.
Now the presence of such “molecular richness and variety” determines the richness in taste and aromas that render Parmigiano-Reggiano unique and inimitable. Such complexity is achieved in a totally natural way, without any additives to correct or alter the raw material, milk, which naturally contains the lactic bacteria leading to these results.
This natural maturation of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a biological process which takes the cheese to its peak, in terms of organoleptic characteristics and typical taste, in a period of time ranging from 24 to 36 months. This also means that the peak of quality will differ in cheeses produced in different dairies (we should never forget that it is an artisan product). After that, if the protein breakdown process is prolonged the texture becomes almost chalky and soluble, the maturation of fat can cause the cheese to turn almost piquant and aromas tend to fade.
Unlike what many people think, they are not grains of salt nor grains of calcium. They are crystals of an amino acid, called tyrosine, which, owing to its molecular conformation, crystallises if it is free and in high concentrations. Together with other amino acids, it is released during the process of protein breakdown triggered by enzymes. Therefore the presence of tyrosine is definitely a practical indication (since it can be experienced by every consumer) of a good degree of maturation of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
What is the difference between Parmigiano-Reggiano and other similar hard cheeses? Parmigiano-Reggiano belongs to the hard cheese category, yet it has special characteristics distinguishing it. These features are essentially due to the feeding of the cows producing the milk destined to its production and the choices made by the producers. After the Second World War, when agriculture was undergoing radical changes, Parmigiano-Reggiano producers created a Consortium and set rules to guarantee the maintenance of some traditional aspects of their milk and dairy production process. A fundamental decision was the one codified in the first Regulation for the Feeding of Dairy Cattle in 1957 according to which the feeding of cows was to be based on local forage, to be preserved by the traditional drying process (haymaking) and the use of fermented forage, such as maize silages, was banned. The 60s and 70s where the years when highly-productive agricultural methods were being established and the maize silage technique certainly met these needs of high productions at lower costs. However, this also caused qualitative problems in the production of long maturation cheese. The anaerobic environment of silages develops a kind of bacteria, butyric clostridia, that reproduce via spores, i.e. tiny capsules where bacteria are quiescent. These spores are highly resistant and can easily survive at cheese making temperatures. They end up in the milk through environmental contamination and hence in the cheese. When certain conditions occur, spores open and release bacteria that start to grow and develop gas with the resulting presence of cracks and holes in the cheese paste. These bacteria can be kept under control by means of certain additives, which may be harmless or natural, like lysozyme, but which in any case are used to correct a lack of quality of the milk. Parmigiano-Reggiano has adopted a radically different strategy, i.e. that of preventing the occurrence of problems. It was decided to ban the use of silage to keep the level of clostridia spores minimum in milk. Therefore, in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese naturalness means using a milk that has its own microbiological balance. It means that its microbiological base consists of the lactic bacteria that are naturally present in milk, that are typical of the area of origin and the development of which must be favoured by the dairy process. These are the reasons why Parmigiano-Reggiano is a true combination of nature and knowledge.