Man's most delicious gift to the world: Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Leave it to those Italians to be the pure food purveyors of the perfect food to gorge on. Italian food, by nature, is simple, no fuss fresh bites of pure bliss. Parmigiano-Reggiano isn't called the "King of Cheese" for being confused with Velveeta.

I could eat a wheel.

History can trace its origins to the 1200-1300's. It's still made the same way today that it was when monks worked tirelessly to age this cheese to perfection. You can't learn how to make this cheese in school, it must be learned from the masters over time. For these cheese makers, it's a dedicated way of life.

Doesn't that make you feel good about what you put into your mouth?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is protected as a "designation of origin" product. Just like an onion can't be called a "Vidalia" unless it's grown in the specific regions of Vidalia, Georgia.

The Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio, Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova are the only regions that can legally produce this pungent, hard cheese.

Made from high quality, unpasteurized cow's milk, the cows themselves are fed in lush pastures and of course pampered, contented cows produce the best tasting milk.

Nothing artificial in this cheese. No preservatives. No chemicals. No garbage. Pure food. Real food.

Milk, bacteria, calf rennet and salt. That's it.

It has a lower fat content than most cheese and it's often the first solid food babies eat in Italy.

If you purchase a cheese that is not from this protected region of Northern Italy, it will simply be labeled "parmesan."

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but splurge a little and get the real deal. You won't be disappointed and will never eat the imposter again.

One ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano is worth the price of 30 pounds of a Wisconsin parmesan.

Please don't buy that Kraft plastic cylinder fake stuff. It's filled with anti-caking garbage and tastes like a spiral notebook, including the metal spirals.

Rumor has it that Casanova gave wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano to his lovers rather than flowers to prove his affection. My kind of guy, that Casanova. Bring on that nutty, crumbly cheese with the gritty kick at the end and leave the red roses blooming in the garden.

Members of the Consorzio (I like to call them the cheese police) inspect each wheel at about twelve months. If it doesn't meet their rigorous standards, the rinds don't earn the prized label stamped "DOP," Italian for Denominazione di Origine Protetta. That's the protected "designation of origin" mentioned earlier. Those inferior wheels are sold to food processors like scrap metal, just because of an air bubble.

Since I don't live in Italy, (yet) my favorite Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from the local Mariano's grocery stores. Named "White Gold," their supplier offers a magnificent cheese, aged for two years, often on sale for $10.00 per pound. Don't worry, it's worth every penny and will keep in your refrigerator forever. However, I guarantee it won't last a week. Maybe two. Nope, one week tops.

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Slice it in small bites and serve it as an appetizer. Use a potato peeler and shave it on salads. Grate it for pasta dishes. Or be like me and eat an entire wedge like a Snickers bar.

The rind should never be trashed. Save it and toss into soups or stews to add more flavor.

Centuries of tradition, purity, cows grazing in the Italian sunshine, copper molds, heat, twenty days in a salt brine, dedication and pride all aged just to make your taste buds happy.

Now that's the kind of food we should all be eating.

Bravo, Italia.

Now how do I cut open this 75 pound wheel in the trunk of my car?

 

 

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Filed under: Cooking, Lifestyle

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