Hard cheese made with skim milk.

Its protein content approaches meat, while being easier to digest; the only real Parmigiano bears a burnt dot-matrix imprint that says "Parmigiano Reggiano". It is made in Italy, in the provinces of Parma and Reggio, and a tiny bit of the province of Piacenza.
Parmigiano, in order to deserve its name, must be aged for at least six months: at this point you have Parmigiano giovane which means "young". Progressively older cheese deserves the name vecchio and stravecchio. Generally, young Parmigiano is eaten straight, while older grades are used for grating over food. As Parmigiano ages, it becomes darker in colour, and the taste refines, although never to the point of being sharp.

Parmigiano is made with milk from cows that have been fed on grass; in winter grass is not available, and the cows are fed hay. This changes the taste of the milk, which in turn produces a different cheese. The resulting cheese is normally labelled vernengo, which means "pertaining to the winter" in the local dialect.

a Trick: real Parmigiano can be recognized by the fact that, in the mass, there are tiny white spots that look like salt, and in fact are precipitated calcium salts.
Notice also that Parmigiano does not make threads when it melts, and it melts at high temperature.

Imitations: there is a sort of approximately cheese-like dust made by Kraft and sold in cylinders. Avoid. There is also a Parmigiano imitation made in South America, usally called Regianito, which is not bad as cheese goes but has nothing to do with the real thing.
Cheese produced using more or less the Parmigiano technique in Northern Italy is normally called "grana" or "grana padano". It can be quite good.
"Lodigiano", made in the countryside around Lodi is quite tasty - but it is a different cheese.

See also: Parma, parmesan, cheese, gnocchi, pasta

Interesting note about Parmigiano: Many authentic Parmigiano cheeses have been produced in the same buildings for hundreds of years. No bacterial culture is added to some of these cheeses because colonies of the necessary bacteria naturally grow in the basements where the cheeses are aged. It is thought this is how the cheese was first discovered, and why it is a regional favorite.

Also the cows which produce the milk used to make the cheese are on very restrictive diets, they are only permitted to graze on certain fields a cow that strays from one of these fields for too long (basically long enough to assume that the cow has eaten) they are removed from milk production.
Parmesan cheese is one of the most famous cheeses of Italy. It is the same colour as straw, is very hard and has a rich, strong flavour.

In order to maintain the high quality of this cheese, the Italian government has imposed strict rules on the way it is made. If a cheese maker does not follow the rules, he cannot call his cheese Parmesan.

Parmesan must be made by hand, with fresh milk from cows grazing near Parma between 1 April and 11 November each year. The cheese is left to mature for at least eighteen months before it is sold.

Some weeks ago I was walking down Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, Washington after a trip to the Westfield Shoppingtown that is usually referred to as Vancouver Mall. Walking down the sidewalk, a man approached me. This man was obviously living on the margins, being unshaven and dressed in a ragged army jacket. I forgot who addressed who first: I used to be much more compassionate, but I've been around enough homeless people who were antisocial to be wary. But whether I said hello or he said hello first, he asked for food. A lot of times a request for food is a lead-in to a request for money. I usually carry some type of food on my person, being a frequent traveler and a frequent shopper at The Dollar Tree, I usually have some little package of crackers and or cookies, however smashed up, stashed inside of one of my pockets. But that day I had nothing. I looked at this guy and could tell he was really quite hungry.

"All I have is a little parmesan cheese packet", I said, having recently gone to a Sbarro's Italian Eatery in the Mall food court.

"I'll take it" he said without hesitation, which let me know that he indeed was truly hungry. I fished it out of my bag and handed it to him. "I can put it on a cracker or something." He seemed happy with the little packet of parmesan cheese, a half ounce at most, that I had gotten for free. "I've been walking from Cougar, I'm hoping to get work with the carnival." (Cougar is 40 miles away from where we were: a place that seemed to be too distant to comprehend when I was a child, and as an adult who has traveled extensively, still seems to be in a little niche not described by normal geography: and a long way to walk on an empty stomach.)

And that was the end of our interaction. I hope my little packet of parmesan cheese served him well. It is a reminder to me, an always needed reminder, that our lives are full of innumerable tiny objects that we pick up and discard without much thought, things of no monetary value, things that can seem to be nothing but random clutter and nuisance, and things that can be close to a life saver for someone we might pass on the street.

Par`me*san" cheese" (?), a. [F. parmesan, It. parmigiano.]

A kind of cheese of a rich flavor, though from skimmed milk, made in Parma, Italy.


© Webster 1913.

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