“When, on 25 April 1254, the notary public William Vegio drew up yet another notarial deed, he certainly could not imagine the historical importance of what he was writing...”

Parmigiano Reggiano has ancient origins dating back to the 12th century. The first cheese dairies began in the Cistercian and Benedictine monasteries of Parma and Reggio Emilia. Abundant streams, pastures and salt from Salsomaggiore allowed the diffusion of a hard cheese made by processing milk in large vats.The monks needed a cheese that would keep over time and they achieved this result by drying the paste and increasing the size of the forms. This allowed the cheese to be preserved.

[Old cheese dairy, precursor of modern dairies]

In the 14th century, thanks to cheese-making techniques established by the Benedictine and Cistercians monks, trade in Parmigiano Reggiano expanded to Romagna, Piedmont and Tuscany, where the ports also allowed the cheeses to reach the sea towns on the Mediterranean. Production was also established in the province of Modena in the 16th century. Traders from Milan and Cremona would come to the city square in Parma to buy Parmigiano Reggiano from the local cheesemakers. The trade soon expanded to Germany, Flanders and France.

[Antique tools for the preparation of Parmigiano Reggiano]

The need to protect the product from similar cheeses, which were beginning to establish themselves in marketplaces and be confused with Parmigiano Reggiano, led to the formation of the Consortium: in 1920, the dairies of the province of Reggio Emilia formed an association to create the Grana Reggiano Voluntary Consortium.

Thanks to an agreement between the representatives of the cheese dairies of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Mantua, the Grana Tipico Voluntary Inter-Provincial Consortium was established on 27 July 1943, with the adoption an oval trademark for the approved cheeses, displaying the year and the inscription C.G.T. Parmigiano Reggiano. The original Consortium was reformed in 1954 as the present-day Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium.

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is a hard-paste cooked cheese with a long aging period.

It is one of the few DOP cheeses with specifications that prohibit the use of fermented fodder and additives of any kind.

Its production requires a long and disciplined process:

the milk from the evening’s milking...

...is skimmed and added to the whole milk from the morning...

...and then heated in large copper vats, to which the cheesemaker adds whey, a natural milk enzyme culture.

[A traditional copper vat shaped like an inverted bell]

At this stage, natural calf rennet is added to induce curdling. The curds are then broken into granules and cooked.

[The balloon whisk, ancient tool for the fragmentation of the curd]

[Fragmentation of the curd]

The casein granules sink to the bottom of the vat...

...forming a compact mass...

...that is extracted after one hour and cut to provide two forms.

The forms are then aged for 12 months, at the end of which they are examined by experts and those with the necessary requirements are stamped with the PDO marking.

The aging can stop at this point or can continue up to 48 months. The various aging processes give the cheeses different qualities, changing their aromas and ideal food and wine pairings.

[The stage of examination and marking of the form]

Oval trademark of the Consortium

Only cheese produced in the area of origin can be given the name Parmigiano Reggiano. This includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua along the right bank of the Po, and Bologna along the left bank of the Reno.

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is inextricably linked to its land of origin, and it is impossible to obtain the same product in any other place in the world.

Credits: Story

Curator — Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano

Credits: All media
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