What Is the Real Name for Parmesan Cheese?

When it comes to Italian cuisine, one ingredient that stands out is Parmesan cheese. This cheese, with its nutty and rich flavor, adds depth and complexity to many dishes. But have you ever wondered what the real name for Parmesan cheese is?

The Real Name: Parmigiano-Reggiano

The real name for Parmesan cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano. This name refers to the specific region in Italy where this cheese is produced. It is a protected designation of origin (PDO) cheese, meaning that it can only be called Parmigiano-Reggiano if it meets strict production standards set by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The Production Process

  1. Milk Collection: The production process starts with the collection of high-quality milk from local cows. The cows are primarily fed on fresh grass and hay, which contributes to the unique flavor of the cheese.
  2. Curd Formation: The collected milk is heated and mixed with natural whey starter culture and calf rennet. This mixture causes curds to form, which are then cut into small granules.
  3. Cooking: The curds are cooked at a specific temperature to further release whey and firm up the texture.
  4. Molding: The curds are placed into molds, which give the cheese its distinctive shape.

    Each mold contains a specific identification mark that indicates the dairy and date of production.

  5. Salting: After molding, the cheeses are immersed in brine for several weeks. This process enhances their flavor and helps develop a hard rind.
  6. Aging: The cheeses are then transferred to temperature-controlled aging rooms, where they are left to mature for a minimum of 12 months. During this time, the cheese develops its distinct flavor and texture.

The Difference Between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano

While the terms “Parmesan” and “Parmigiano-Reggiano” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Parmesan is a generic term used to describe similar cheeses produced outside of Italy. These cheeses may not meet the strict production standards set for Parmigiano-Reggiano.

How to Identify Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Look for the Stamped Rind: Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels have a distinct markings on their rind. These markings include the words “Parmigiano-Reggiano” as well as the identification number of the dairy where it was produced.
  2. Check for Consistency: The texture of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano should be granular and crumbly.

    It should not be rubbery or overly soft.

  3. Pay Attention to Flavor: True Parmigiano-Reggiano has a rich, nutty flavor that intensifies with age. It should not have any artificial or off flavors.

In Conclusion

Parmesan cheese is known by its real name, Parmigiano-Reggiano, in Italy. This cheese is produced using traditional methods in specific regions of Italy and has a distinct flavor and texture that sets it apart from generic imitations. When buying Parmesan cheese, look for the authentic markings on the rind and pay attention to its texture and flavor to ensure you are getting the real deal.