A great chunk of parmigiano reggiano is the cornerstone for so many great dishes. From a classic caesar salad, to risotto, or drizzled with raw honey and a good balsamic vinegar for dessert. There are so many things to do with a good parmigiano-reggiano cheese!
Parmigiano-reggiano is the King of cheese
Parmigiano-reggiano is a briny cheese made from two ingredients: grass-fed cow's milk and salt. Known as the "King of cheese," parmigiano-reggiano is produced by 450 artisanal dairies in specific provinces in Parma. It is a traditional cheese that dates back before the 13th century. Its production is tightly controlled by region, by law and by tradition. Parmigiano-reggiano is high in glutamate, the source of umami, which explains why parmigiano-reggiano makes almost everything better. The cheese requires 600 liters of milk, is molded in enormous 33-40 kilogram wheels, individually dated and aged a minimum of 1 year in large floor to ceiling racks.
My mom and sisters and I at a parmigiano-reggiano dairy
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Parmesan is not parmigiano-reggiano
When a cheese is labeled parmesan, it can be made anywhere from anything, and its ingredients and production methods are not controlled. Some of these cheeses may be very tasty, and others not so much, but they are not parmigiano-reggiano. The picture below shows the difference between a great chunk of aged parmigiano-reggiano and a lesser parmesan cheese.
How to tell a good parmigiano-reggiano
First of all, a true parmigiano-reggiano is expensive and can cost $25 or more a pound for an aged chunk. The cheese is crumbly and granular. In fact, the granular crystals, which are made of tyrosine, an amino acid, is a sign of a quality, well-aged cheese. These spots are good, not a sign that the cheese has gone bad. The rind of a true parmigiano-reggiano cheese will be marked with its vintage date, or date of production.
Don't throw away your rind
Always save the rind of your parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Wrap it in plastic wrap, store it in the fridge, and bring it out the next time you make soup. Toss the rind in your soup and it will add its umami deliciousness to your soup.