Every day the master cheesemaker begins at dawn, when the milk from the morning milking arrives. The milk from the previous evening has been resting in steel tanks, resulting in natural separation, which thickens the milk, which is then skimmed. The milk is then poured into massive copper vats the size of hot tubs, where it slowly coagulates with the addition of rennet and whey. The milk is brought up to 55C to encourage curding and the cheesemaker then breaks up the curds, using a spino. The cheese that forms is wrapped in muslin and is hoisted out of the steel vats by two cheesemakers (given its heavy weight). I could see why all of the cheesemakers we saw during our visit were quite fit given the laborious nature of the job at hand!
After the cheese is removed from the copper vats it is weighed down and put into a mold to give it its characterstic wheel shape. Afterwards, it’s moved to the maturation room where it matures to perfection (if only they had a room like this for husbands!)
To ensure the utmost quality of every wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, there is a protection body, The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, which includes all producers who process the milk into cheese. At 12 months, every wheel of cheese is quality tested and only if it passes stringent guidelines, will it be branded with its selection mark.
During our visit to Parma, we feasted at several fabulous restaurants, where we were treated to dinners featuring Parmigiano Reggiano in each and every course. Some of the dishes were quite inventive (Parmigiano Reggiano ice cream, anyone?) and we also enjoyed sampling three maturations of Parmigiano Reggiano paired with a selection of chutneys – a new addition to our cheeseboard next time we’re hosting a dinner party!
*During my visit I was hosted by the lovely teams at Parmigiano Reggiano, Antica Moca, Ristorante Inkiostro, Les Caves, Croce di Malta, and Grand Hotel de la Ville, Parma. All opinions and photography are my own.