From time to time we'll offer descriptions of some of our favorite cheeses.
Parmigiano Reggiano is formed into 80 lb. wheels, with "Parmigiano Reggiano" stamped on the rind. The number of the dairy and the month of production are also stamped on the rind. Production is strictly regulated by law: Reggiano is only made in about 1000 small dairies in the Zona Tipica-in the provinces of Parma, Modena, part of Reggio-Emilia, part of Bologna, and a small part of the Lombardy region's Mantua Province.
It is made from part skim milk and must be aged for 18 to 36 months. The methods of production and level of craftsmanship of Reggiano are unchanged through seven centuries. Because it is artisan made, no two wheels of Reggiano are the same, but all meet the minimum standards established by the Consortium (association of producers).
The flavor is fruity, intense, and concentrated. The texture is creamy and crackly on the tongue. The aroma is fragrant with hints of earth, hay, cream, and fruit. Seasonal variations in flavor are discernable; winter milk cheeses are often leaner in flavor profile while summer milk cheeses are more opulent in flavor reflecting the diversity in the grasses consumed by the cows. The characteristic crackly, crunchy texture is the result of the milk protein breakdown over time.
Typically grated over your favorite pasta dish, Parmigiano Reggiano is also wonderful by itself, especially as an after-dinner course.