How Is Real Parmesan Cheese Made?

When it comes to cheese, Parmesan is considered the king of Italian cheeses. Its distinct nutty and sharp flavor adds depth to pasta dishes, soups, and salads.

But have you ever wondered how this beloved cheese is made? Let’s delve into the fascinating process behind the creation of real Parmesan cheese.

The Origins of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, originated in Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region. It has a rich history dating back over 800 years. The name “Parmigiano” refers to the city of Parma, while “Reggiano” indicates the region surrounding Reggio Emilia.

Milk Selection

Step 1: The first crucial step in making Parmesan cheese is selecting high-quality milk. The finest Parmesan is made using raw cow’s milk from specific local breeds that graze on fresh grass and hay. This careful selection ensures that the cheese acquires its unique flavors.

Curd Formation

Step 2: Once the milk is collected, it undergoes a natural fermentation process. Special whey starter cultures are added to acidify the milk and create curds.

Note: The use of whey starter cultures is what sets real Parmesan apart from other inferior imitations.

Cooking and Cutting

Step 3: The curds are then cooked at a specific temperature to release additional whey. This process helps achieve the characteristic texture of Parmesan cheese.

Step 4: After cooking, the curds are cut into small granules to facilitate further whey release. The smaller the granules, the drier and more crumbly the final cheese will be.

Molding and Pressing

Step 5: The curds are placed in cylindrical molds lined with cheesecloth. This is done to give the cheese its iconic shape. Each mold is labeled with a unique identification number, allowing for traceability.

Step 6: Next, the molds are subjected to high pressure to release any remaining whey and compact the curds together. This pressing process helps create the dense texture associated with Parmesan cheese.

Salting and Aging

Step 7: After pressing, the cheese wheels are immersed in brine for several weeks. This saltwater bath enhances the flavor and preserves the cheese.

  • Note: The use of sea salt is crucial in maintaining authenticity.

Step 8: Finally, the wheels of Parmesan cheese are transferred to aging rooms. Here, they undergo a minimum aging period of 12 months, although some wheels are aged for up to 36 months or even longer for exceptional quality.

The Aging Process

During aging, Parmesan develops its distinctive flavor profile and becomes more crumbly. The cheese wheels are regularly turned and monitored by expert cheesemakers who ensure ideal temperature and humidity conditions for optimal maturation.

The Result: Real Parmesan Cheese

The end result of this meticulous process is a wheel of real Parmesan cheese that boasts a firm texture with distinct crystalline bits known as tyrosine crystals. The cheese is then carefully cut into wedges or grated, ready to enhance your culinary creations.

So, next time you savor the savory flavor of Parmesan cheese, remember the artistry and dedication that goes into producing this beloved Italian delicacy.