Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Italian Food Experience: Part One - Parmigiano-Reggiano

Today I went on what I can only describe as the most enlightening food experience I have ever had. Italian Days Food Experience is a locally run foodie tour operating out of Bologna. Its a three part tour visiting the origins of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar and Prosciutto.

Today is my post about visiting a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory in the region of Modena.

In a small group of seven we ventures out of Bologna into regional Modena. This factory was fun by just four local men that produce thousands of wheels of A-Grade Parmigiano-Reggiano a year. The biggest standout from this visit is that Parmigiano-Reggiano, like Champagne, is a product that can only called so if coming from the region of Modena and under strict regulations including the dairy cows diet!

The cheese starts life in a 1100L heated mixer. It contains of half skim, half full fat milk that is heated until the curd sinks to the bottom of the mixer.

Each of these mixers can only produce a maximum of two wheels of cheese at a time! The curd is removed and molded for two weeks until it is a solid mass and the whey is removed completely. It then goes through a salting process where sea salt permeates into the cheese wheel.

The cheese wheels are then dried for up to 14 months. There are three grades of cheese with the highest grade produced more commonly to the lowest grade that cannot carry the Parmigiano-Reggiano name from lack of quality.

Each wheel carries identification numbers to ensure quality control.

This is the best tasting 'Parmesan' I have ever had. It was sharp and grainy and made me itch for a bowl of bolognese to sprinkle it on!!

Next Stop: Balsamic Vinegar

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