Parmigiano Reggiano is a unique cheese renowned all over the world – when in Parma you can take a guided tour of a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory and witness the daily birth of the king of cheeses in a local caseificio (cheese-making establishment).
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production is still an artisanal process: every day about 350 caseifici employ modern equipment but follow a time-honoured, strict routine so they can ensure the high quality guaranteed by the Consortium.
It takes about 550 liters (145 gallons) milk to make one wheel of cheese, which at the end of the end of the ageing process weighs about 40 kg (88 pounds). Both partially skimmed and whole milk is used.
The milk is heated in copper cauldrons and only two natural ingredients are added: whey which is left over from the cheese-making of the previous day and rennet, a substance from the stomach of milk-fed calves. The milk starts to curdle and is stirred with a large whisk-like tool called spino.
It is the special skill of the master cheese maker – casaro – that determines the exact moment when the cheese granules are allowed to settle at the bottom of the vat forming a compact mass from which two twin forms will result.
The fresh cheese is then moved into forming moulds and left to rest.
And this is only the first day in the life of a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese! It will take a lot more effort and at least a 12-month maturation before Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can reach your table …
To learn more about the local delicacies check out the section Taste the best of Emilia of this site.