Where is Parmigiano Reggiano made?
Parmigiano Reggiano is a PDO product made only in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the Reno River and Mantua to the right of the Po River. All the steps in its production take place in this area, from cow breeding to cheese making and packaging.
How can I recognize a Parmigiano Reggiano PDO wheel?
Parmigiano Reggiano wheels have two types of marks: the marks of origin and grade selection marks.
THE MARKS OF ORIGIN
- The signs engraved with the stencilling band throughout the vertical side of the wheel, consisting of the wording “PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO” in pin dots, the identification number of the dairy where the wheel was made, month and year of production, the acronym “DOP” (Italian for PDO), and “CONSORZIO TUTELA” (Protection Consortium);
- A casein plate applied on the surface of the wheel and setting forth the acronym “CFPR” (Italian acronym for the Protection Consortium), a code with letters and numbers as the unique identifies of each single wheel and the Datamatrix code
THE GRADE SELECTION MARK
The grade selection mark (fire-branded mark) is applied to 12-months old wheels that pass the selection examination, i.e. the quality inspection that is performed in order to assess the external appearance of the wheel and its internal texture (through the percussion hammer test). The grade selection mark, which is fire-branded, is an oval shape with the wording “Consorzio Tutela Parmigiano-Reggiano” and the year of production inside such oval shape.
What is Parmigiano Reggiano minimum age?
For Parmigiano Reggiano, the minimum maturation time is 12 months.
Is there a maximum maturation time?
No, there isn't. Most of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on the market is between 24 and 36 months old, but it can be found with longer maturations, from 40 months to over 100 months.
What are the Parmigiano Reggiano ingredients?
Parmigiano Reggiano is made of milk, salt and rennet only, with no additives and no preservatives.
I have bought a Parmigiano Reggiano piece that has no pin dots on the rind, is it fake?
No, not necessarily. It may be due to the fact that the stencilling band that engraves the wording “Parmigiano Reggiano” in pin dots on the vertical side of wheels has a set length, whereas Parmigiano Reggiano wheels, which are hand-made, are not all of the same identical size. Therefore, in large-size wheels, a small part of the vertical side may be left out of the stencilling band, which is too short, and, therefore, may have no “Parmigiano Reggiano” wording in pin dots.
The distinctive signs may not be found also in case of cheese pieces whose rind comes from the flat top or bottom of the wheel, (for instance the central part of the wheel): these pieces do not show the typical signs.
I have bought a Parmigiano Reggiano piece that has parallel lines engraved on the rind, what does that mean?
Parmigiano Reggiano that, at quality inspection, shows minor or moderate defects in the structure of its paste and/or on the rind, and yet no alteration in the typical organoleptic characteristics of the product is classified as second category (medium-grade). On these wheels, in addition to the ‘Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela’ fire-branded mark, parallel lines are engraved on the rind, all along the vertical side that has the wordings in pin dots, so that this category can immediately be recognized in the subsequent marketing steps, including the sale in pieces to end consumers. The cheese classified in this category is called “MEZZANO” (MEDIUM-GRADE).
What information must be given in the label of Parmigiano Reggiano that is sold pre-packed in pieces or grated?
In accordance with the production specifications in force, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese sold packed in pieces or grated, with or without rind, shall be cut, grated and packed in its area of origin and the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese, when sold pre-packed, shall have the collective figurative mark “Parmigiano Reggiano and wedge and wheel” along with the number of the related authorization given by the Consortium and all other information required by the law.
How can I know the age of the pre-packed cheese I am about to buy?
The production specifications require that the labels of pre-packed pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano set forth the minimum maturation time, in order for consumers to be informed of the age of the product they are about to buy.
What is “de-rinded” cheese?
It is the cheese classified as “downgraded”, i.e. cheese that, at quality inspection, is found with defects that prevent it from being eligible to have the “Parmigiano Reggiano” designation. All marks of origin of the PDO are fully removed from these wheels scraping the rind and making it an anonymous cheese. This cheese is used for grated cheese mixtures or for melting.
What are the white spots that I often see in Parmigiano Reggiano?
They are crystals of an amino-acid, tyrosine, which, owing to its molecular structure, crystallises when free and present in high concentrations. This amino-acid piles up during maturation because it is freed, along with the other amino-acids, through the breaking up of milk proteins by enzymes. Therefore, finding tyrosine crystals is good evidence of Parmigiano Reggiano maturation for consumers, because they increase in number and size with longer maturation.
I am intolerant to lactose, can I eat Parmigiano Reggiano?
Yes, you can! In Parmigiano Reggiano, as early as in the first 48 hours after being made, glycolytic processes are performed by lactic bacteria on milk sugars, whereby all lactose is transformed into lactic acid: therefore, Parmigiano Reggiano is naturally lactose free, irrespective of maturation time.
Can you eat Parmigiano Reggiano rind?
Yes, you can! Parmigiano Reggiano rind can be eaten because this cheese does not contain any additives or preservatives (Parmigiano Reggiano is made of milk, salt and rennet only) and its rind does not undergo any preserving treatment. As it results from natural dehydration of the external layer of cheese, the rind is completely natural. However, before using it, it is better to accurately clean it, in order to remove any impurities, it may have coming from the maturation environment.
How should I store Parmigiano Reggiano at home?
When you buy a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly cut, pre-packed or vacuum-packed, you should store it in the refrigerator, at a temperature between 4 and 8°C. If its is vacuum-packed, its shelf-life is generally 6 months and is set forth by the firm that packed it. After opening the vacuum-pack or if you buy a piece of cheese freshly cut from the wheel, you must prevent it, as much as you can, from being in contact with air, which would make the wedge external part too dry and harder and may lead to mould formation on the outside (especially as regards not long matured cheese). Therefore, the best thing is using glass or plastic containers; another practical solution consists in wrapping Parmigiano Reggiano in food-grade plastic film.
Can I freeze Parmigiano Reggiano?
Freezing Parmigiano Reggiano, especially in pieces, is not a good idea, because the structure of the cheese paste would change and lose its characteristic crumbliness.
May I visit a dairy?
Of course! Parmigiano Reggiano is made at our dairies every day and seeing it being born is a fantastic experience. You can book your tour directly clicking on: https://www.parmigianoreggiano.com/dairies-book-a-guided-tour/
What’s the difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan?
On 26 February 2008, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that, in the EU territory, the term “Parmesan” is an evocation of the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO and, for that reason, it shall be used only for the true Parmigiano Reggiano, made in compliance with its Production Specifications.