Incredibly, the king of cheeses has been made almost exactly the same way for eight centuries, under extremely strict standards, using only the milk of cows raised under equally strict standards. The taste is slightly sharp, a bit like mildly sharp cheddar, but also very complex and layered. It is also a bit fruity, though nutty is the predominant characteristic. Then there is the wonderful aftertaste it leaves on the tongue. It can be served in chunks on its own or with a high quality balsamic vinegar drizzled on it or used to improve almost any dish it is added to from salads to steak.
We can thank the Benedictine monks from the 13th century for this long-aged cheese. The monasteries in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna had large areas of land, much of it given over to dairy cow grazing. As cow's milk is heavily influenced by the diet of the animal, the clover and the lucerne which were cultivated, gave a particular flavour to the milk that came through.
Today Parmigiano- Reggiano is is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna, on the plains, hills and mountains enclosed between the rivers Po and Reno.
This area hosts four thousand farms where the
cattle are fed on locally grown forage. The feeding of cattle complies with the
norms of a strict specification that bans the use of silage and fermented
Regular controls are carried out on the milk used in the process to ensure the high quality and the presence of special characteristics, which allow Parmigiano-Reggiano to continue to be, as it always has been, a purely natural product, completely without additives or preservatives.
Parmigiano- Reggiano is built around the ideal of perfection in every single wheel. These cheeses are scrutinised by the experts of the Consortium who examine each cheese one by one!
Day 7 of our
12 Day Lake Garda and Northern Italy Cultural and Culinary Delights Tour takes
you on a journey to experience the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano for
As soon as
the whole milk from the morning milking arrives from the farm, the skimmed milk
from the night before is poured into the typical bell-shaped copper cauldrons
where calf rennet and fermented whey, rich in natural lactic ferments obtained
from the processing of the day before, are added.
coagulates in around ten minutes, and the curd which forms is then broken down
into minuscule granules using a traditional tool called “spino”.
cooking process is applied which reaches 55 degrees centigrade, after which the
cheesy granules sink to the bottom of the cauldron forming a single mass.
resting for around thirty minutes, the cheese mass is removed.
Cut into two
parts and wrapped in its typical cloth, the cheese is then placed in a mould
which will give it its final shape.
is given a unique, progressive number using a casein plate and this number
remains with it just like an identity card.
After a few
hours, a special marking band engraves the month and year of production onto
the cheese, as well as its cheese dairy registration number and the
unmistakable dotted inscriptions around the complete circumference of the
cheese wheel, which is then, after a few days, immersed in a water and
It is a process of salting by absorption which, within less than a month, closes the production cycle and opens the not less fascinating cycle of maturation.
maturation the cheese wheels are laid out in long rows in the silent maturation
Each cheese has used around 600 litres of milk and the constant care of the farmers and cheese masters.
is allowed to rest on wooden tables where the outside of the cheese dries
forming a natural crust without being treated in any way and therefore
remaining perfectly edible.
The minimum maturation time is twelve months, and only at this point can it be decided if each individual cheese is worthy of the name it was given at its birth.
Control Body’s inspection, a mark is fire-branded onto the individual
cheeses which meet the requirements of the Protected Designation of
identifying marks and the dotted inscriptions are removed from any cheeses
which do not meet the PDO requirements. It is one of the most crucial moments
for the cheese makers and also one of the most important for the consumers: the
moment of selection and the granting of a certificate of absolute guarantee for
The cheeses which are sent for sale to the consumer as fresh (a term which may sound curious for a product which has been maturing for a year) will have parallel lines engraved on them which render them immediately recognisable by the consumer. This is the second class of Parmigiano-Reggiano called “mezzano”.
When the cheese has matured for 18 months, the mark "Extra" or "Export" can be added. A system of coloured seals help the consumer identify the level of maturation of the pre-packaged products available in retailers.
A red seal
identifies the Parmigiano-Reggiano which has been matured for over 18 months.
This product has a rather strong milk flavour, with aromatic notes such as
herbs, flowers and fruits which make it ideal for snacks and aperitifs.
A silver seal identifies cheese which has been matured for over 22 months, with decidedly stronger aromas. In these cheeses the notes of fresh and citrus fruit can be tasted, along with a hint of nuts.
Finally, a gold seal identifies a cheese which has been matured for over 30 months and has the most distinctive flavour and complex aromas, with a higher nutritional element concentrated over its long maturation.
If you can read “Parmigiano Reggiano” in dots all over the rind it’s another sign that you’ve got the real thing!
Professional cheese testers (battitores) "listen" to each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano by placing the 85-pound wheel on a special stand and gently tapping it with a small "martello" or hammer to detect flaws in texture and structure. They are also experts at evaluating the colour, aroma and maturation of the cheese—all without breaking it open!
WARNING! Whether you can speak Italian or not this ad will get inside your head. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmZ28NIQPbM
If we have whet your appetite for this delicious cheese, why not join us on our 12 Day Lake Garda and Northern Italy Cultural and Culinary Delights Tour. Where on Day 7 of this tour we will be taking you to a Parmigiano- Reggiano production plant where you will see firsthand the process of making this cheese. http://italiandelightstours.com.au/uncategorized/12-day-lake-garda-cultural-and-culinary-delights-of...
Are you thinking of coming to Italy this Autumn? If you are then you’re in luck! Many people think Autumn is the best time to visit Italy, with crisp days, changing colours and seasonal food products to enjoy. Autumn in Italy is often characterised by the last lingering warm-to-hot days from summer, but typically without the humidity, or the hot nights. So even if it feels a little warmer than you think it should during the middle of the day, it’ll cool down in the evenings so that your after-dinner passeggiata will surely be pleasant. In September it’s also likely to still be warm enough after dinner to warrant a gelato while you stroll!
Autumn colours can be found in vineyards, foothills, and mountains in mid-October and into November. During the spring and summer Italy puts on the most amazing array of greens that I have ever seen, but come Autumn, when the Lombard poplars and chestnut woods change to yellow, the vineyards turn burgundy and you sometimes get a low lying mist settling in between the valleys it becomes a photographers playground!
When most people think of San Gimignano they think of a town of skyscrapers, characterised by the numerous towers within its medieval walls, surrounded by the most beautiful Tuscan countryside that there is to see. What most people don't know is that San Gimignano was also a stopping point for pilgrims travelling to Rome and within San Gimignano were eight hospitals with one 'pharmacy' or apothecary supporting them. Also, this sixteenth century apothecary is one of the oldest in Italy. It has been kept unadulterated and its appearance is what it was centuries ago.
Today the collection of the Apothecary represents one of the most beautiful and interesting collections in San Gimignano. Set on the first floor of the museum in the former Conservatorio di Santa Chiara, the display exhibits more than 100 ceramic and glass wares from the 14th century and features the original structure of the pharmacy "shop", where the medicines were sold, and the "kitchen" where they were prepared. On display also are some of the drugs that would have been used. Some of these are preserved in ceramic and glass vessels and were manufactured on the basis of precise information, collected in ancient recipes. On display also are the pharmacopoeia books from that time and the apparatus in which pharmaceuticals were prepared.
To make this fascinating experience even more enriching, imagine a kind of open-air museum where you can walk among aromatic and medicinal herbs, breathing in the aromas and fragrances. With the help of architects, archaeologists, botanists and gardening experts the city of San Gimignano and the Opera Group- Civita, have tried to recreate the herb garden that would have once supplied the busy apothecary.
Interestingly, among the records of the expenses incurred at the time of the great plague epidemics (1630-33) accounts can be read of the remedies prepared in the apothecary and applied during the epidemic. It seems that hundreds of pounds of honey were used as a soothing agent and remedy for catarrh. A remarkable quantity of violets must have been used, not only as the ingredient of various medicines, but also to disinfect and perfume the closed areas of the Hospital. It was believed, that the transmission of disease was spread through bad air, and so there was an enormous number of recipes for making scent-balls, to be held to the nose as a "filter" for the air. And to keep the inhaled "poison" from mixing with the saliva, it was recommended to chew bitter roots that disinfected the oral cavity. I would hate to be a mother in the 1600's having to tell your children to "Chew your bitter root. It's good for you!"
You can visit San Gimignano and Apothecary on day 7 of our 10 day Seaside to hilltops Cinque Terre and Tuscany tour . During this day you would say goodbye to the gorgeous Northern Italian Riviera and hello to the equally beautiful Tuscany! You will stop at San Gimignano on the way. With its amazing towers and stunning surrounding countryside, this will surely be one of the highlights of your time with us! After our San Gimignano sojourn we head to the commanding hilltop town of Montepulciano, where we spend the next four days together.
Out of all the North Italian Lakes, Lake Como is arguably the most beautiful of them all. If you were to Google ‘top European Lakeside destinations’, Lake Como comes up in all of them. Lake Como is best known for its stylish lakeside villas and has long been a favourite retreat for the rich and famous.
Spring is a wonderful time to be in Italy, especially April, May and early to mid June. It is warm enough for dresses and sandals and cool enough for sightseeing all day. It is also perfect weather for enjoying hearty meals and a glass or two of vino rosso or bianco! Most parts of Italy get less rainfall in spring than in the autumn and you can expect average maximum temperatures between 20-25°C.