Parmigiano Reggiano has a millennia-long history, but even today it is still produced as it was originally: few ingredients, all 100 percent natural and no additives.
Although according to some the birth of this cheese can be dated more or less 2,000 years ago by the Etruscans, the first written traces come from the Middle Ages, when Cistercian and Benedictine monks, thanks to the abundance of waterways and the large pastures on their land, were looking for the perfect recipe to produce a simple cheese that would keep for a long time.
And so, thanks to the salt from Salsomaggiore and the milk from the many cows in the crabs, the monks invented what they called “formadio,” a hard aged cheese weighing about 6 kg made only from cow’s milk.
The first traces of commercialization of what was to be called Parmigiano Reggiano come to us from a 1254 notarial deed drawn up in Genoa, where the words “Caseus Parmensins,” or “Cheese of Parma,” appear.
History of Parmigiano Reggiano: the first expansion
The fame of this cheese expanded quickly, and already in the first years after its invention it was also being consumed in Romagna, Piedmont, Tuscany and some Mediterranean maritime centers.
Around the 1400s, a time when there was great economic development in Emilia, the wheel took on a larger size (about 18kg), and production also began in Modena.
Marketing continued, and at the same time exports to the European area (Germany, Flanders, France and Spain) began. During these years, producers realized that the cheese produced between May and September was of higher quality. It was therefore nicknamed “maggengo.”
In the 16th century there was a great development of cow dairies and cheese factories, which began to unite in one place.
But as the popularity of Parmigiano Reggiano spread, imitations also began. This is why the Duke of Parma made the designation of origin official on August 7, 1612, defining the places where the cheese was to be produced.
Origin of Parmigiano Reggiano: from the 1700s to the present.
In the 1700s a number of wars broke out in the duchies of Parma and Modena, making it difficult to produce Parmigiano Reggiano.
Later, with the arrival of Napoleon in the early 19th century, the large ecclesiastical estates and lands were ceded to the bourgeoisie.
During this period the dairies took on their characteristic octagonal shape and increased their production, remaining active from 120 to 180 days a year, the same number of days the cows had fresh grass.
Approaching the present day, precisely in the early 1900s, some innovations in the production of the King of Cheeses arrived for the first time, such as the use of whey grafting and heating by steam.
On July 27, 1934, for the first time, representatives of the dairies of Parma, Reggio, Modena and Mantua (right of the Po River) agreed on the need to approve a mark of origin for their cheese.
Because of the wars, however, it was not until 1951 that the Stresa conference on cheese naming was held. And in 1954, the law finally arrived.
This date marked the transformation of the original Consortium into the current Protection Consortium, the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium.
This innovation was followed in 1992 by the drafting of EEC Regulation 2081/1992 on Protected Designations of Origin, PDOs (later supplemented by EEC Regulation 510/2006). In 1996 Parmigiano Reggiano was officially recognized as a PDO at the European level.
THE PARMIGIANO REGGIANO CAN BE FOUND WITH DIFFERENT AGING TIMES:
12 MONTHS (MINIMUM AMOUNT OF AGING)
18-24 MONTHS (OLD)
24-36 MONTHS (VERY OLD)
THE 12 MONTH PARMIGIANO REGGIANO IS VERY GOOD EVEN JUST EATEN IN CHUNKS, MAYBE WITH SOME HONEY, OR IN SALADS, THE OLDER PARMIGIANO IS BETTER TO GRATE OVER PASTA. MANY TIMES IT’S JUST PERSONAL PREFERENCE, WHATEVER YOU LIKE BEST. PERSONALLY, I PREFER THE FRESH PARMIGIANO, BECAUSE IT’S NOT AS SHARP.
ALWAYS GRATE THE PARMIGIANO FRESH, DO NOT BUY THE PRE-GRATED PARMIGIANO, IT CHANGES FLAVOR AND IT’S NOT AS GOOD.
RECENT STUDIES PROVED THAT THE VERY OLD PARMIGIANO REGGIANO (36 MONTHS) DOES NOT CONTAIN LACTOSE AND GALACTOSE, PERFECT FOR WHO IS INTOLLERANT!!
THE REAL PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, IN THE U.S, IS VERY EXPENSIVE, SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO FIND AND, IF YOU DO FIND IT, MANY TIMES IT’S ONLY THE VERY OLD ONE (36 MONTHS). I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THE EXTRA PRICE IS DEFINETLY WORTH IT!! DO NOT GET THE IMITATION !!
ONE THING THAT IS OFTEN DONE IS TO SUBSTITUTE PARMIGIANO WITH PROVOLONE CHEESE. THE FLAVOR OF THE PROVOLONE CHEESE GRATED AS IF IT WERE PARMIGIANO REGGIANO WILL CHANGE THE FLAVOR OF THE FOOD DRASTICALLY, I SUGGEST YOU DO NOT DO THAT!! BETTER NO CHEESE AT ALL!!
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