There are really stringent laws governing what kind of cheese can be called Parmigiano Reggiano, so in fact the answer to the question should be: Only one kind – Parmesan cheeses produced in the regions which are covered by the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (protected designation of origin). In reality, however, it is a little more complicated! Let me try to explain about the variations that can be found amongst cheeses that all proudly bear the PDO stamp which proclaims to the world that they are genuine Parmesan cheeses from the PDO region, which includes Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua and Bologna.
It may surprise you to know that there are about 420 creameries within this designated region, and these “parmesan factories” receive their milk from over four thousand farms every day. Inevitably, there will be a large variation in the end product from all these dairies, due to the season, altitude, breed of cattle and expertise of the cheese-maker. Another factor that hugely influences the final cheese is the period of maturation; the minimum time required for a cheese to fulfil the stringent appellation requirements is 12months, but some cheese wheels spend up to 36 months in the maturation cellars, during which time there is a very noticeable change in the taste and character of the cheese.
Factors which influence the final product are:
Maturation: at 12 months this medium-fat semi-hard cheese will have a pale cream colour, taste slightly salty, slightly acid and slightly sweet, and have a wonderful nutty fragrance – Parmigiano is never a smelly cheese! There is a slight grainy texture, one of the distinctive characteristics of this King of Cheeses. At 18 months, the texture has changed as more crystals develop and the straw colour of the cheese is a shade darker; the flavour is becoming more savoury and the fragrance has become a little fruity. The flavours and aroma of the cheese continue to deepen and mature, and the colour gets progressively darker. By 30+ months the cheese is fully mature, a golden straw colour with many crystals and can have woody, spicy, and dried-fruit flavours on your palate. The rind will be really hard at this stage.
Altitude: At higher altitudes, the dairy herd has access to sweeter, greener grass (Parmigiano herds are never fed anything other than grass!) and purer water, resulting in the cheese from the mountains (Parmigiano di Montagna) having a subtly deeper flavour. Many cheese connoisseurs also believe that cheeses made in Spring and Autumn are also superior due to the improved feed at these times of the year. Since each wheel is date-stamped, it is easy for cheese buyers to select cheeses made at these time of the year.
The Herd: if you are faming cattle for the meat market you choose good beef producing breeds, and likewise milk producers for the famous Parmigiano cheese production rely on superior milk-producing cows. In this region the most favoured breed is the Alpine Brown, bred exclusively in the mountainous areas. Recently “red cows” as they are locally known are making a coming back. The Rossa di Parma is native cow of the area and it produces a superior milk. These animals produce the very best balance of quality and quantity of milk – a really superior product just perfect for the production of a really superior cheese.
So, to get back to the original question – there is only one type of cheese that may be called Parmigiano Reggiano, produced in the areas covered by the PDO, but within the parameters set there can be fairly wide variations in the appearance, aroma and taste (and price!) of your slice of Parmigiano.
Going on a culinary tour of the Bologna/Parma area of Emilia Romagna should be a must on the itinerary of any food lover visiting Italy. The towns and villages around Bologna and Parma are the bread-basket of northern Italy and are home to the producers of the majority of famous Italian food exports such as Parma Ham (prosciutto di Parma), Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) and real Balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico). A typical culinary tour of the region will take you to see how all three of these products are made and give you the opportunity to taste them, followed by a lunch featuring the specialities of the region.
Parma hams visits in Parma, Make sure you have a GPS.
These tours generally start in Bologna, with an early-morning (7.30 am) departure, to be sure you get to the cheese manufacturer in time for the once-a-day morning tour, and you will be returned to Bologna after lunch. However, if you are not based in Bologna, it would probably suit you far better to do the tour in your own car. This option has many advantages, which will become evident as you read on. This is how do go about it.
Rent a car and GPS. You probably already have a rental car…it is by far the best way to see the many attractions of the Italian countryside. Be sure to request a GPS…all the producers are situated in rural areas, and can be really tricky to find.
Meet your guide.
Meet your tour guide at a pre-determined location near Modena, Parma or Bologna. This will save you a lot of time, as you can choose a location near the first stop of your tour. It is really important to have a guide to ensure you get the best out of your day; Our guides know the area and the producers extremely well and will be invaluable, especially if you do not speak Italian. They will also ensure that all visits that require advanced bookings will be organised well in advance to save you time.
The Culinary Tour will start with a visit to one of the 1600 Parmesan cheese producers, where the production process starts early every single morning of the year, and where you will be able to see the entire process from the raw milk to the finished product and the maturation cellars. From here you will move on to Modena, to see how the wonderful aged Balsamic vinegar is made, and learn why this product is so superior, and how to use it correctly.
Then it’s back into your car and on to Langhirano, south of Parma to visit a Parma Ham producer. Once again, you will have the opportunity to see the full production process and, best of all, get to taste the wonderful end-product. The tour will end will lunch, where you can savour Prosciutto de Parma and other regional cured meats before trying some of the traditional pasta of the region, followed by dessert and coffee.
This is the point where the full benefit of doing the tour in your own rental car becomes evident! Instead of being returned to Bologna, you have the freedom to spend the rest of your day enjoying the many pleasures of Parma and Modena. Now you will say goodbye to your guide and have time to explore on your own.
Both Modena and Parma are very charming and characteristic Italian towns, full of churches, art, architecture and interesting shops. Stroll around the piazza in Modena and visit the wonderful fresh food market (Mercato Albinelli) to shop for your supper, or sit at one of the outside cafes and enjoy an espresso while you watch the world go by. Ferrari fans could go to Maranello and visit the Ferrari Museum, while if culture is more to your liking you could visit the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral. Finish off a perfect day with a glass of local Lambrusco.
Modena and the traditional balsamic vinegar produced here are truly Italian gems of uniqueness.
The Duomo di Modena is part of the Unesco world’s heritage and it is something really markable that you should not miss. It is almost 1000 years old and build only from scrap marbled derived from ancient Roman villas. The Duomo has been built according the Romanesque style by the masters of Campione D’Italia. The structure celebrates Modena’s patron and protector San Geminiano.
Hidden in the family’s home attics there is another treasure: Traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena. Only made by the Modenese families in small batches and aged up to 25 years, it is a remarkable pearl in the Italian gastronomic tradition. It requires a set of barrels made of noble woods, Lambrusco grape juice and a lot of patience. Every year the producers have to painstakingly refill the barrels since some of the liquid is lost due to natural evaporation during the hot summers. However this allows to blend the flavours of the woods into the final product.
The traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena has basically nothing to do with lower quality vinegar even when marketed as MODENA’S. During the tasting we will discover how to distinguish the black nectar from its numerous imitations. The tasting is aimed to develop an appreciation for the producer and learn how to match it with foods. Even though it is seen by many as an expensive and eccentric product it can be used on everyday’s foods. If used correctly a bottle will last for long time.
During Emilia Delizia’s Traditional Balsamic Vinegar tour we will learn how the fractional ageing works and each detail of the production will be explained to our guests. For those wishing to take home some of the product is now possible to purchase the 100 ml bottles directly from the producer at discounted prices. Some producers are also happy to send their products directly to your home and almost all accept all major credit cards.
Even though Modena is small, it is a true concentration of history, architecture and food delicacies. If you want to truly sample the city we recommend to spend at least one night and a full day. Modena is also famous for Parmesan cheese, pasta like tortellini, Zampone and cotechino and there is an endless array of good restaurants in the city centre. Ranging from cheap eat to Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, Modena is set to please everyone in terms of food.
Modena is also the capital of motor sport, and super cars. The newly open Enzo Ferrari museums is an interesting hot spot for those fanatic about the Ferrari cars. The modern building offers themed and rotating car collections that express the soul Modena. It is also possible to catch a shuttle bus and visit the Maranello Ferrari museum without the need of hiring a car.
Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) guided visit to a cheese day.
Emilia Delizia offers detailed Parmigiano Reggiano cheese tours in Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia. Our tour will begin early in the morning in order to catch as much as possible. Below we tried to reproduce our tour in pictures to give a better idea to people about what they will see when at the Parmesan dairy.
At the arrival at the dairy we we will see the raw milk sitting in the vats. These large containers “cauldrons” contains 1000 kg of full fat and half milk mixed together. The compound is then acidified and the rennet is added. At this point the milk will turn into a yoghurt like substance.
These are the 2 twins, one is a boy and the other is a girl. Basically these are the curds of the cheese that have been cut and left to rest. From 1000 kilos of milk we obtain 2 45 kilos wheels. Some of the weight is lost during the ageing, and therefore the final product weights approximately 37 kg.
The unformed cheese goes into the Teflon mould for one day and one night. The cheese master carefully add a weight on top of the cheese. In order to squeeze our all the liquid the moulds are then turned every couple of hours. In the evening the cheese cloth is removed and the matrix carrying the naming Parmigiano Reggiano is inserted in the mould. Telon is a new material that has replaced the hand made wooden moulds that were originally crafted by hand. In the video you can clearly see how the cheese is moved from the vat to the moulds. Our guests will be able to see the full production just meters away form the cheese being made.
The cheese goes into the metal mould for another day. These moulds have the shape of the wheel which will not required further manipulation such as the trimming of the edges. The cheese always rest on wooden shelves which allow breathing and the correct ageing.
The wheels then go to a brine bath and stay here for 3 weeks. This is an important step to make hard cheese in fact the high salinity of the water will allow residual moisture to exit thanks to natural osmosis. It is important to keep in mind that Parmesan cheese does not contain any preservative or anti fermentative, therefore it is essential to have the right amount of moisture in the wheels.
The last part of the visit will be spend in the ageing cellars. Here is the Parmigiano Reggiano is stocked on the traditional shelves for a minima of 12 months. During the visit we will learn how to recognise the real Parmesan cheese from imitation and we will discover the nutritional values of the product.
We have been recently searching on the internet about what to do with the end of Parmesan cheese rinds and we were surprises to discover that there is pretty much a lot of misconception about how to use the.
Well first of all do not throw them away, they can be used! Parmesan cheese is completely additive free and the rind do not contain any waxing or coating, it is made of cheese. The Parmigiano Reggiano rind is formed during the brine stage, when the wheels are soaked in water and sea salt for 21 days. In our region is custom to store the rinds in a fabric bag at the bottom of the fridge.
Once you have build up a decent cheese rinds you should start worrying about what to do wit them. You should scrape them a little with a knife and remove a thin layer of the external part. After all it was its protection and it have been touched and handled in different environments so better remove the impurities. Once you have cleansed the cheese rind you can cut it in small cubes and add it to Minestrone or virtually to any soup. Once you have cooked it do not discard the rinds but serve them with your soup, by cooking them they become soft and chewy, in fact one of our childhood favourites.
So in short you can eat the rind of the Parmesan cheese, and we are referring to Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy. If you have a stock of other cheese rinds we do not recommend to eat them as they might contain wax or other artificial coatings.
Emilia Romagna is the region of Italy that shaped modern Italian cuisine. Notably there are 4 products that you should take home with you and they are balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and a bottle of good Lambrusco.
Taking home Parmesan cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmesan cheese as it is an aged cheese is safe to take back to most countries in the world, including the U.S. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and of course the entire EU. Generally speaking there are no restrictions in self importing Parmigiano Reggiano to any country. Custom officers back home should not give you any trouble when taking with you this aged cheese. It also a common norm to vacuum pack the cheese, and remember to ask for “sotto vuoto”, the shop keeper will oblige and vacuum pack the cheese for you. In this form the Parmesan cheese will last for 6 months and once opened, store it in a Tupperware container for no longer than 2/3 months.
Parma ham and other salumi.
For cured meat is a different story, unfortunately it virtually impossible to bring back any meat products when travelling outside the EU. The U.S. Japanese and Australian customs are quite strict when it comes to cold cuts from Italy, they might impose hefty fines. On the other hand if you travel inside the E.U. there are no restrictions of any kind.
Bringing back Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
Aceto balsamico tradizionale of Modena and Reggio Emilia comes in 100 ml bottles and it is packed in sturdy boxes. Theoretically you could take it on the plane on your carry-on luggage as the content is 100 ml, however rather than confronting the check-in people with your precious black gold it would be a better option to store it in your checked-in luggage. As it comes in its strong boxes there are no chances of breaking the bottles. Shipping is another option but not all producers do it and it is costly especially for small purchases.
Taking home a bottle of Lambrusco from Italy.
Good Lambrusco is scarce back home, you are more likely to be able to find cheaper versions that fill the bottom of the supermarket shelves. In the last 10 years Lambrusco producers have been working hard to make upper scale versions of the wine and get the recognitions that they should really deserve. Many visitors after trying our best Lambrusco cannot go home without a bottle of the red sparkling wine. Customs wise is permitted to take alcohol back home but the quantities vary depending on the country so it is better to check this details before taking large quantities. Of course there are no restriction for personal use within the E.U. Bottles travel safely in the check in luggage but they should be properly wrapped before packing them. Try to wrap a towel around them. Shipping wine is also an option but really worth only if you buy expensive premium wines.
Emilia Delizia wholesale service, wine, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese.
As Emilia Delizia main office is based in London UK, we would like to announce our wholesale food service for delicatessens, restaurants, food importers and resellers. If you are based in London and you are looking for one of our products in larger quantities we are able to supply premium organic quality directly from Italy at competitive prices. The produces are palletised and shipped directly to your doorstep. Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco can be also sent to the U.S, Australia, Japan, and other countries world wide. For more information about our organic products you can check our online food shop.
5 foods you should eat when visiting Bologna. This province has one of the greatest culinary tradition in Italy because its area encompasses the Appennini mountains and the Pianura Padana. The array of basic ingredients is enormous giving birth to sophisticated and traditional cuisine.
Crescentine or Tigelle.
Crescentine are simple small breads traditional baked sandwiched in disks of clay and cooked by the kitchen fireplace. The ingredients for the dough are simply flour, water salt, yeast (sometimes a splash of cream). The greatness of this bread is that it becomes crispy outside and it is hot and moist inside therefore thy are just great when cut in half and stuffed with the local salumi. Crescentine are the food of the Appennini mountains and widely eaten across the provinces of Bologna and Modena. For a nice addition you should try them with Pesto alla Modenese. This nothing else than pork lard mixed with a pinch of salt, garlic, rosemary and parmesan cheese.
It is long the tradition of pork raising in the Emilia Romagna area. The meat is mostly consumed in form of sausages, salami and hams, and rarely eaten fresh. Bologna most iconic sausage is Mortadella. Lately this cooked sausage is living a revival and producers are trying to move away from the unhealthy image of a fatty sausage. According to the traditional recipe it must be made from the lean and noble parts of the animal which are ground to a fine paste, fat cubes and spices are added, then stuffed into a casing suitable for the size, and finally slowly cooked for 2/3 days at low temperature. Mortadella can be thinly sliced or cubed.
Parmesan cheese is the king of cheeses. Made from high quality unpasteurised milk and aged from a minimum of 12 months. However rarely it is eaten at this age. Bolognese people like their cheese when it is at least 24 months old. At this age it has fully developed its potential flavours and it is suitable to enhance the stuffing of tortellini . Bologna produces Parmigiano Reggiano only on the west bank of the Reno River. At the moment of writing there are about 10 producers of the cheese in the Bologna area, you will find more proudcers in Mantua, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma.
Shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano can be also enjoyed with a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena.
Tortelllini are the quintessential Bologna’s winter food. In town there is no Christmas without a plate of tortellini cooked in capon broth. As the legend goes they have been shaped according to the navel of Lucretia Borgia. As she checked in to a INN, the host impressed by her beauty was trying to spy her from the keyhole, but he could only see her pretty belly button.
Traditionally tortellini are made from sheets of egg pasta. Then stuffed with minced pork, parmesan cheese, mortadella, prosciutto, and the recipe changes depending on the family who makes it. Today you can buy tortellini almost everywhere but the best ones are those made by hand. They are pricey but well worth every cents.
To conclude our short guide to the Bologna food tour we wanted to include a dessert. After all sweets always close all good meals. Zuppa Inglese is another iconic dish of Bologna but quite common all over Emilia. This pudding is inspired from English trifles in fact the the name translate roughly to “The English Soup” . it is made from 2 custards: egg and a chocolate custard which are then layered on top of savoiardi biscuits (Italian Ladyfinger). These biscuits are spongy and especially made to soak up the liquors that are added.
Where this famous Italian cheese is made.
by Gabriele Monti November 6th, 2012
A while ago the consortium of the Parmigiano Reggiano made the map below to explain where the cheese is made, in order to educate consumers and tourists about the area of production.
Protected designations of origin.
The PDO is a food labelling standard that you find in Europe to protect food that has to be made only in certain areas. This is the case of Parmesan cheese, which is required to be made from the milk coming from the production area. The organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials will be transferred in the final product. Therefore you cannot make parmigiano reggiano using milk coming from other areas, simply because the outcome will not be the same.
The discipline of cheese making.
The consortium has a discipline that imposed on each producer. The discipline is nothing else than a set of strict rules made according our ancient tradition. In short to make the cheese you need the right raw material: high quality milk and of course the skills the knowledgeable cheese masters of Emilia.
Bologna and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Bologna produces the parmesan cheese only on the left bank of river Reno. In total there are only 10/12 producers in this province. If you stay in Bologna and decide to take a cheese tour, it is most likely that you will have to go to Modena to see the production.
Coming from east, Modena is where the real parmigiano production starts. The area is of a particular interest if we look at the parmesan cheese produced on the Appenini mountains which is said to have a higher quality. This is probably due to the better water and air, being away from the industrial areas. In Modena is also possible to find organic parmesan produced from heirloom cows such as the bianca Modenese.
Although being in Lombardy and not in Emlia Romagna, Mantua falls in the production area. in fact there are several producers of the cheese in the area south of the Po’ River. Mantova is also a producer of Grana Padano.
Reggio Emlia – The cradle of cheese making.
Bibbiano is a small town about 20 km south of Reggio Emlia, it is the confirmed cradle of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. We have the first written accounts of the cheese of Parma dating back at least 9 centuries. Reggio Emilia is often overlooked by the tourists but is well worth a stop if you are interested in food.
Parma and the cheese of.
Parma along with Reggio Emlia shares highest production amounts of the area. Also the town already confirmed itself as world’s gourmet destination and food basket of Italy.
Visiting and touring a Parmesan cheese dairy in Emilia Romagna, Italy.
It is possible to visit the dairies however it is best to arrive at least the day before since the cheese is only made once a day and it is early in the morning. In the past we organised tours for people staying in Milan or in Florence, and thanks to the high speed trains it is now possible to arrive early in the morning for the visits. Emlia Delizia is a proud organiser of Parmesan cheese tours in Italy from Modena, Bologna and Parma.
Tour of Parmesan, Parma ham and winery overlooking the beautiful Torrechiara Castle.
Parmesan production in details
Our best gourmet foods available in Parma are included in the tour. We will start the day with Parmesan, where our guides will go in details about the production of the famous cheese, as usual our visit will include the productions steps, the brine rooms and the ageing cellars, all with the final tasting. Participants will witness the creation of the cheese wheels from raw milk till it is turned into the aged product. This is a food cultural tour to enlighten those interested to see how cheese making happens.
Panoramic winery tour at the romantic Torrechiara Castle.
Just after the cheese production you will taken to a winery facing the marvellous Torrechiara castle (pictured below). Along the fantastic view you will have an aperivito based on 3 wines such as Malvasia (sparkling white) Lambrusco (sparkling red) and other DOC wines available from the winery. Each wine is accompanied with finger food such as reserve Parma ham rolled on bread sticks, vintage Parmesan and so on. After the tasting we will take a short walk to the Castle via the vineyard, where we will visit the castles (please note that it is closed on Mondays)
Parma ham visit with gourmet lunch.
The tour will continue with our Parma ham visit. Here we will visit a producer of the renowned ham, we will go down into details of each step of the production, we will visit the 4 pre ageing chambers, then we will move to the cellars where we will describe how the product achieve its PDO status. The visit will end with tasting of the ham plus other local cured meats such as culatello, the lunch will continue with a pasta main course and of course dessert.
The castle is medieval manor overlooking the Parma valley. Dating back to the XIII century and fully restored. it was the home of the count Pier Maria Rossi. He was a valorous knight fighting against the venetians on behalf of the Duke of Milan Filippo Maria Visconti. Later in life he build the Castle of Torrechiara from what was known as the ruins of Torrechiara, the remains of past strategic settlements. The castle is dedicated to Bianca Pellegrini who was his lover at the time. In particular he built the Golden Bedroom for her, a beautifully decorated space.