Parmesan cheese is a beloved ingredient in many cuisines around the world. But did you know that Parmesan cheese can only be made in Italy? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this unique restriction and the history of Parmesan cheese.
What is Parmesan Cheese?
Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a hard, granular cheese that is made from cow’s milk. It has a nutty and slightly salty flavor and is commonly used as a topping for pasta dishes, salads, and soups.
The History of Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese has been produced in Italy for over 800 years. The cheese was first made in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, specifically in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River and Mantua to the east of Po River. It was originally created as a way to preserve milk during times when it was scarce.
Over time, Parmesan cheese became one of Italy’s most popular exports. In fact, it was so popular that imitations began appearing all over Europe. To protect their product from inferior imitations and protect their economy which heavily relies on agriculture products like Parmigiano-Reggiano they needed to create an exclusive system.
The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
In 1955, the Italian government passed a law that protected certain food products with “Protected Designation of Origin” or PDO status. This means that only products made in a certain geographic area using traditional methods can be labeled with that name.
This law was created to protect traditional Italian foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano from imitators who would try to pass off their products as the real thing. The PDO status ensures that only cheeses made according to strict guidelines can be labeled as Parmigiano-Reggiano.
What are the Guidelines for Making Parmesan Cheese?
To be considered authentic Parmesan cheese, the cheese must be made in a specific geographic area of Italy, which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River and Mantua to the east of Po River.
The cows used for the milk must be fed only grass and hay grown in this same geographic area. The milk itself must be collected within two hours of milking and then heated in copper cauldrons over an open flame.
After heating, natural whey starter and rennet are added to curdle the milk. The curds are then cut into small pieces and cooked at a high temperature until they sink to the bottom of the cauldron.
The cheese is then placed into molds where it is pressed for several days before being submerged in brine for about three weeks. After this, the cheese is aged for at least 12 months, with some cheeses aged up to 36 months.
Why Can’t Parmesan Cheese Be Made Anywhere Else?
The strict guidelines for making Parmesan cheese ensure that each wheel of cheese has a consistent flavor and texture that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Additionally, using milk from cows that graze on specific grasses from a specific region gives the cheese its unique flavor profile.
Furthermore, by protecting traditional Italian foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano with PDO status, Italy can maintain its reputation as a producer of high-quality food products and protect its economy by not allowing imitations or inferior products to flood foreign markets.
The Bottom Line
Parmesan cheese can only be made in Italy due to strict regulations put in place by the Italian government. These regulations ensure that each wheel of cheese is made using traditional methods and ingredients, resulting in a consistent flavor and texture that cannot be replicated elsewhere. So, the next time you enjoy Parmesan cheese, remember that it’s a special product made with care according to strict guidelines in a specific geographic area of Italy.