Cooking Q&A — Parmigiano-Reggiano
How do I know if I’m buying authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano?
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made in only one part of the world — northern Italy. The region where it’s made is comprised of Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, Bologna and Mantua. If the package of the cheese you’re buying indicates that the contents were made somewhere other than the places I’ve listed above, you’re not paying for authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano. Also, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a licensed name. That means no other cheese, even those made in the same style, can use that name. If the cheese is labelled parmesan, that’s a sure give-away that you’re looking at an imitation. Look at the rind, too. It should have a multitude of pinholes that, when seen on a whole wheel of cheese, spell out Tutelo Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano — a sure sign that the cheese has been taste-tested and inspected by all of the appropriate authorities.
There are times, however, that you want a great tasting cheese without the expense of authenticity. In that case, turn your attention to Grana Padano or Romano (made with sheep’s milk). Both are very flavourful added to pasta, pizza or enjoyed totally on their own.
All of these cheeses will taste different and showcase a slightly different texture depending on the season. The changes are due to the cows’ diet. In spring, the grass is fresh and sweet, and the cows feast on the yellow flowers that cover the fields; so the cheese will be tinged with a slight yellow appearance. In summer, the heat dries the grass; so cheese will have a slightly drier texture. In fall, the cows eat grass with flavours that have been concentrated over the long, hot summer. The cheese will be very flavourful. Finally, winter. The cows have dry hay has their primary diet producing cheese that’s very light coloured and moist.