What Is Aged Parmesan Cheese?
When it comes to cheese, there are few varieties as well-known and beloved as aged Parmesan cheese. This Italian cheese has a rich history and a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other cheeses. In this article, we will explore what makes aged Parmesan cheese so special and how it is made.
The Origins of Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, originated in Italy in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua. It is believed to have been produced since the Middle Ages and holds a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in Europe. This means that only cheese produced in these regions using specific methods can legally be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The Aging Process
The aging process is what gives Parmesan cheese its distinctive flavor and texture. After the initial production of the cheese, it undergoes a long aging period that can last anywhere from 12 months to several years. During this time, the flavors intensify and develop into the complex profile that Parmesan is known for.
First, the fresh Parmesan wheels are left to dry for several days before being soaked in brine or saltwater. This helps to preserve the cheese and create an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria. Afterward, they are moved to special temperature-controlled rooms where they mature slowly over time.
The Flavor Profile of Aged Parmesan Cheese
Aged Parmesan cheese offers a unique taste experience that is both savory and slightly salty. The aging process concentrates the flavors and creates subtle hints of nuttiness and sweetness. The texture also changes, becoming harder and grainier as the cheese dries out.
Uses of Aged Parmesan Cheese
Aged Parmesan cheese is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Its robust flavor makes it the perfect addition to pasta dishes, risottos, soups, and salads. It can be grated over dishes or melted into sauces for added richness and depth. Some people even enjoy eating small chunks of aged Parmesan on its own as a snack!
Tips for Storing Aged Parmesan Cheese
If you want to enjoy the full flavor of aged Parmesan cheese, it’s important to store it properly. The best way to store it is by wrapping it tightly in parchment paper or wax paper, then placing it in an airtight container or resealable bag. Store it in the refrigerator, away from other strong-smelling foods, as Parmesan cheese can easily absorb odors.
Aged Parmesan cheese is a true delight for cheese lovers. Its long aging process gives it a deep and complex flavor profile that sets it apart from other cheeses. Whether enjoyed on its own or used as an ingredient in various dishes, aged Parmesan adds a touch of luxury to any meal.