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Top 10 Untold Truths of Parmesan Cheese

Cheese lovers need to get the inside scoop on the gourmet Italian cheese known as Parmesan. Making this particular cheese, which has a nutty and gritty taste, is truly an art form. Read on to discover some fascinating untold truths about Parmesan, which is an ingredient in so many recipes.

10. The Good Stuff Costs A Bundle

If you want to buy a big wheel of Parmesan for personal use, be aware that you’ll be purchasing a lot of Parmesan cheese. The Costco website offers 72-pound cheese wheels for 899.99 USD. The stuff you shake out of a can, onto a plate of pasta, is not generally the “good stuff” and that grated cheese product isn’t going to put a big dent in your bank account, but you should treat yourself to the fancier version at least once and maybe much more often. You’ll find that enjoying real Parmesan is a true culinary milestone. Authentic Parmesan isn’t even called Parmesan and we’ll talk about that a bit later. Parmesan is an English name for this cheese. Real Parmesan is an extravagant food product. Real Parmesan is always created in wheel form. Huge wheels of this gourmet cheese are produced and then aged. It all happens in Italy. Lately, there is a trend towards making pasta dishes directly on top of Parmesan cheese wheels. The pasta is stirred around on top of the cheese wheels and then served. Before the pasta is put on top of a cheese wheel, a bit of the cheese is scraped out on top of the wheel. The scraped-out cheese flavors the pasta and gives it texture. It all happens table-side, for a bit of mealtime drama. While all pasta joints don’t offer pasta made in cheese wheels, there are eateries where these types of dishes are specialties. According to Glutodigest.com, it’s available in Houston, Texas, USA, at Ragu & Pesto. You’ll also find it at Le Petit Paris in Los Angeles and Cacio e Pepe in the Big Apple. 

9. It Tastes Better As It Ages

Genuine Parmesan ages like fine wine. Authentic Parmesan cheese from Italy, which is produced in the huge wheel shapes, is aged for a couple of years, but there are other types of Parmesan cheeses which are aged for even longer. Parmesan cheeses labelled as stravecchio age for three years, while stravecchiones age for four years, based on information from The Spruce Eats website. Since the aging process is long, even when Parmesan is sold at a younger age, such as two years, it’s no surprise that this cheese costs serious cash. It costs money to store huge cheese wheels over the long term, not to mention what it costs to produce these gourmet cheese wheels in the first place. Way, way back, in the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks made this revered cheese in their monasteries. In the 13th century, it was made in four different regions of Italy. This cheese has a long history. It’s a cheese with heritage, and the making of this cheese is all about time-honored Italian tradition. Cows whose milk is utilized to make genuine Parmesan from Italy are fed a special diet, in order to produce the purest, tastiest milk. Cow are never fed any animal-based products. Every step of the production process for this raw milk cheese was carefully thought-out ages ago. It’s believed that the process hasn’t been altered in any significant way since medieval times. 

8. Making The Cheese Isn’t Easy

Making what is deemed the “King of Cheeses” by proud Italians isn’t easy. It’s an art and a science. Usually, cows graze right on site, while cheese makers toil inside. The cows are milked regularly and cheese makers start creating authentic Parmesan by skimming milk collected the evening before. The milk is added to non-skimmed, fresh milk collected in the morning. Both types of milk are added to vast tanks made from copper. Rennet is added, after whey is mixed in. The whole mixing process happens quickly. Several moments later, curds begin to form. The curds are broken up with special tools. The tools are big whisks. Next, the huge metal cauldrons are heated up through steam, in a gentle and slow manner. After three-quarters of an hour, the heat is shut off. At the point, the curds have joined together. Next, cheese makers works in small teams to pull the newly-formed cheeses out of the liquid in the vats. After this is done, the cheese solids are loaded into big rings of plastic which resemble the tires of trucks. At this point, the cheese sits for nine hours. After the cheese rests, it’s added to molds made from stainless steel and left to rest for a couple of days to three days. After this second resting period, the cheese brines in salt for around eighteen days. Then, it’s put into a warm room, where it sweats. This helps the rind to form naturally. After all of these steps, it’s time for the cheese to be placed in an aging room.

7. It Is Rich In Nutrients

If you’re not a Parmesan expert, you won’t believe how nutritious this cheese product actually is. It’s kind of astonishing. It is loaded with nutrients. So, be sure to treat yourself, in moderation. When you indulge in genuine Parmesan, you’ll access a treasure trove of protein, minerals and vitamins. The Nutrition Advance website reports that authentic Parmesan cheese, which must be produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Mantua, Bologna or Modena, Italy, contains 35.8 grams of protein per 100 gram serving. That’s a much higher protein count than you would access if you ate the same amount of Mozzarella, Camembert or Cheddar cheese. It’s more protein than meat offers in the same serving size. In terms of mineral content, real Parmesan contains sulfur, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, calcium and phosphorus. It’s also a source of the fatty acids known as Omega-3 fatty acids. This isn’t a low-calorie food product, though, so do moderate when you indulge. One hundred grams of Parmesan contain four hundred and twenty calories. You may be wondering which vitamins are present in authentic Parmesan. There are a lot. This cheese from Italy contains vitamin A, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B-1, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-3, vitamin B-5 and vitamin B-9. If you’d rather enjoy Parmesan than swallow a multi-vitamin, you’ll be pleased to know that this cheese will give you so many important nutrients, plus great taste.

6. An Earthquake Once Destroyed Thousands Of Parmesan Wheels

There was once a natural disaster that threatened the entire Parmesan industry, but people did find solutions that saved the industry.  In 2012, according to the Independent.co.uk website, there were a couple of earthquakes in Italy which damaged some property. These same earthquakes damaged scads of huge and valuable Parmesan wheels. The wheels are stored in warehouses for aging and the force of the earthquakes made the wheels crash to the warehouse floors. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of wheels. Some of the wheels dropped from significant heights. One-third of the cheeses produced that year were ruined. Damage totaled over three hundred and twenty million dollars. Each gourmet cheese wheel was valued at about three hundred and fifty pounds, which equates to around four hundred and fifty US dollars. These were high-end cheese wheels with hefty weights. So much high-end milk was needed to make them. Warehouses were equipped with humidity control systems to protect them. So, how did the problem get solved? It was such a big problem. Well, firefighters rallied quickly to salvage as many cheese wheels as possible. 12 million kilos of Parmesan were salvaged. These firefighters were nicknamed, “Angels of Parmesan”, according to Thestar.com. Individuals and companies also offered to buy some of the damaged wheels, or pieces of the damaged wheels. A range of charitable initiatives also cropped up, which were designed to help revitalize the struggling Parmesan industry. So many people came together to help. It was all a nightmare for Parmesan producers and their employees, but those who recognize the value and quality of authentic Parmesan were more than willing to help, and the industry eventually recovered.   

5. Real Parmesan Is Known As Parmigiano Reggiano

Lots of people refer to this cheese as Parmesan, but that’s the English name for it. The true Italian name for the authentic cheese from Parma or another region of Italy is Parmigiano Reggiano. There are tight controls which dictate whether or not cheese makers may call their cheeses Parmigiano Reggiano. Real Parmigiano Reggiano is made in Italy, according to plenty of production rules, and it has a rind that features the words, Parmigiano Reggiano. Under European law, only cheese crafted in traditional Italian production areas may be called Parmigiano Reggiano. If you want the real thing, look at the rind on the cheese. You don’t have to buy a whole cheese wheel. You may opt for a wedge. The wedge of a genuine cheese will have markings that show it’s the real thing. The pre-grated cheeses you see on grocery store shelves aren’t the real thing and they will typically be labelled as Parmesan. These inauthentic versions may taste good and suit your preferences, but they are not genuine Parmigiano Reggiano. Find it at local cheese shops, or anywhere that offers gourmet cheeses from around the world. Once you try the real thing, you’ll notice a difference in taste, for the better. Imitation Parmesan cheese just doesn’t have the same depth of flavor. It’s fun to eat the genuine cheese. It’s always a gourmet experience.

4.  It Is Lactose-Free

People who are lactose-intolerant may stay away from cheeses because they don’t want digestive problems. The beauty of genuine Parmesan is that it won’t trigger any digestive issues in people who are lactose-intolerant, because it is lactose-free. If you’re looking for a cheese that is safe to consume, despite your lactose intolerance, give authentic Parmesan a try. You may add it to recipes, such as Chicken Parmigiana or risotto. You may grate it onto a bowl or plate of pasta. You may shave it into salads. You may eat it as a snack. A lot of cheeses are hard on the systems of people who are lactose-intolerant. This one is different. While real Parmesan, which is labelled, Parmigiano Reggiano, isn’t the cheapest cheese, you’ll find that you don’t need to use much of the cheese in order to add flavor to recipes. A little authentic Parmesan goes a very long way. Most people purchase a month’s supply of the cheese and then make sure to use it up within 30 days. They don’t invest in a massive and costly cheese wheels. 

3. Kraft Heinz Got Sued For Adding Cellulose To Its Parmesan Cheese

Kraft Heinz got in legal hot water over the cellulose content in its grated Parmesan cheese product. Most of us are familiar with this cheese product, which comes in a shaker-style container. According to the Foodprocessing.com website, the cheese from Kraft Heinz is marketed as being one hundred percent Parmesan, but this isn’t the case. A study by Bloomberg showed that it contained a cellulose level of 3.8 percent. After the Bloomberg investigation, Kraft Heinz and other companies were named in a legal action over the cellulose, which was utilized as a filler. The lawsuit happened in 2016. A woman from Illinois chose to move forward with a class action lawsuit in a federal court. Her lawsuit claimed that Kraft Heinz was violating state laws about fraud and business deception. The thing is, cellulose, which is a fiber derived from plants, is not illegal. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Cellulose helps to prevent clumping in cheese that is grated before it is sold. So, it’s a filler ingredients that does serve a constructive purpose. All told, fifty lawsuits about cellulose content in a variety of products, which were directed at Kraft Heinz, Wal-Mart and other industry heavyweights, were filed. In 2017, a judge threw out a lot of the lawsuits. The Kraft Heinz lawsuit got tossed and Kraft execs were very happy. The judge said that all of the ingredients in the pre-grated cheese product were detailed right on the package. Anyone who was thinking about buying the cheese product could see what’s in it just by checking the ingredients.

2. It Has A Very Hard Texture

Real Parmesan isn’t a creamy cheese, like Brie or Camembert. It’s a hard cheese. Its texture is usually described as gritty. In Italian, the word is grana, which translates to granular. Authentic Parmesan has a nutty and fruity flavor. Pale imitations may feature more bitterness. This is yet another reason to try the real thing if you haven’t tried it yet. There are special knives for grating or shaving Parmesan. The knives feature almond-shaped blades. Sometimes, these knives are sent out as practical extras when people buy huge Parmesan cheese wheels. If you’re interested in buying your own wedge or wheel, and a Parmesan knife doesn’t come with your purchase, you can find one at a better kitchen supply store, or order one online. Since this cheese is very hard, a proper knife will definitely come in handy. Parmesan cheese just don’t have as much moisture are creamier cheeses. It’s difficult to crack the rind of a Parmesan, unless you have the right tool at hand. With a proper Parmesan knife, it’s simple to get through a rind and then shave or grate the cheese. 

1. It Has To Be Stored Correctly

When you’re considering buying real Parmesan, it’s a bit of an investment, although well worth it. When comparing places to buy, try to find out how they store their wedges and wheels before you buy. Proper storage is essential. A humidity-controlled environment is ideal for storage of big Parmesan wheels. Once you buy, you’ll need to store your cheese properly at home. According to Marthastewart.com, the cheese should be wrapped snugly in plastic clingfilm and then placed in the fridge. Now that you know some fascinating untold truths about Parmesan, you may be craving the stuff. If you’ve never had the real thing, now may be the time to try it. There may be a restaurant in your city that offers a table-side cheese wheel pasta experience. If there is, that will be such a fun way to get acquainted with genuine Parmesan. Another option is buying a wedge of the real thing at a respected local cheese shop and then using it in recipes.

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