Around the World report
May 14, 2022
Any self-respecting Italian would refuse to eat pasta without it. For nine centuries, Parmigiano-Reggiano has been brewed in Emilia-Romagna according to the ancient recipe of the monks. And no matter how hard they try to replicate this cheese in other parts of the world, for some reason no one succeeds
Italians love parmigiano as much as they love pasta and pizza. There may be no gorgonzola or mozzarella in the fridge, but when the parmesan ends, they urgently run to the store for it.
– This is the king of cheeses, – exclaims Fabio Palumbo, a seller from a cheese shop in the center of Bologna, — try it with balsamic vinegar — delicious!
Italians in their own way and respectfully call parmesan simply forma — short for the word formaggio (formaggio), which means “cheese”, or, literally, “what is shaped.”
Stay with the nose
— Parmigiano should always be in the house, says 47-year-old Antonio Carabetta, who has worked half his life in the Chensi cheese factory near Parma.
The tradition of rubbing parmesan into pasta has existed in Italy for at least seven centuries.
For the first time, pasta with parmigiano-reggiano is mentioned in written sources of the 14th century, in particular in the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio: the heroes of one of the short stories lived on a mountain of grated parmesan and ate only pasta and dumplings.< /p>
However, this gastronomic trick gained mass distribution during the First World War, when meat was a luxury.
Parmesan, on the other hand, being a more affordable product with a high protein content, served as a worthy alternative, especially in its small homeland in Northern and Central Italy (each region produced its own hard cheeses, for example, different varieties of pecorino. — Note. “Around light”).
No other formaggio is involved in so many recipes. In Italian cuisine, it is added everywhere, but cheese of different ages is chosen for different dishes. The maturation process of parmesan in pantries lasts from 12 to 36 months (if longer, the cheese is considered overripe).
– It becomes too spicy, for an amateur, – clarifies Antonio.
The 18-month-old Parmigiano-Reggiano is ideal for aperitifs with young white wine and fresh fruit, especially apples and pears. Forma Mature, 22 months old, good with vegetable and fruit salads.
Cheese over 30 is savored with aged wine to match. But this is, so to speak, a festive menu. On weekdays, everything is simple: an Italian will push away a plate of pasta with displeasure if it is not sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
As the old Calabrian proverb says:
“Pasta without parmigiano is like a woman without a nose.”
It is considered bad taste to combine formaggio with only some of the sauces – with those that contain mushrooms , Fish and seafood. Nevertheless, the fish itself, like meat, is usually sprinkled with parmesan chips.
Vegetables baked with this cheese are very tasty, for example, the traditional eggplant dish with the addition of mozzarella and tomatoes, it is even called “parmigiana”. Pieces of cheese chopped with a special mini-dagger are served with fresh and dried fruits.
A special delicacy is forma with sweet jam, and from the most unexpected products – onions, pumpkins, tomatoes.< br>
As a rule, well-aged cheese is added to ready-made dishes, at least 24 months, ideally 36 months. For dishes like parmigiana, where the cheese is melted, spread and mixed with other ingredients, it can be younger and cheaper. The price per kilogram varies from 9 to 35 euros, depending on maturity.
The King of Cheeses
Italians owe the appearance of this cheese in their diet to the monks from the Benedictine order. In the XII century, in one of the monasteries near Parma, a recipe for natural cheese with a long shelf life was discovered.
The monks managed to combine almost incompatible things. After all, natural means perishable. Parmesan heads keep for over 36 months without preservatives. No other cheese is capable of this.
The famous “raw foodists”
Biographers of Molièreclaim that he, being dying, asked the nurse to bring him a plate of parmesan.
From the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova it follows that he was not only a great lover, but also a great culinary specialist: his lovers appreciated the dish he cooked with parmesan more than a presented bouquet of flowers.
Napoleon< enjoyed the taste of this formaggio /strong>: the emperor appreciated it thanks to his second wife, Duchess of Parma Marie-Louise of Austria. Bonaparte's favorite dish was boiled green beans, generously sprinkled with cheese.
Alexandre Dumas prepared pasta with tomato sauce and Parmigianoreggiano for guests.
We did not ignore the great cheese and Russians. Catherine the Great treated this formaggio with respect, considering it very useful and tasty. Favorite of the Empress Grigory Potemkin, trying to please his mistress in everything, he often invited her to dinner, at which, among other dishes, “Ryabtsev stew with parmesan and chestnuts” was served.
He was famous for his love of Italian cheese Nikolai Gogol. Here is what Sergey Aksakov writes about this: “On the third day, about two hours before lunch, Gogol suddenly comes running to us … pulls pasta, parmesan cheese and even butter from his pockets and asks to call the cook and explain to him how to cook pasta.
Another Russian writer, Vyacheslav Pietsukh, in the cycle “Discourses on Writers” says: “Gogol always complained about digestion and lack of appetite, but in one sitting he was able to eat almost a bucket of spaghetti with grated parmesan …”
For for nine centuries, neither the place, nor the recipe, nor the features of the production of parmesan have changed. As with the monks, cheese is made by hand, and only in a few provinces of Emilia-Romagna: in Parma, Reggio nel Emilia, Modena and Bologna (on the left bank of the Reno River).
“There is nothing to add to a perfect creation,” smiles cheese maker Antonio Carabetta. Parmigiano is made from raw milk and rennet (obtained from the stomach of calves and is widely used in the production of cheeses to curdle milk. — Note “Around the World”).
Back to Contents and feeding cows are high demands. Animals eat only fresh grass, hay, cereals and seeds that grow in our area. No silo. Before each milking, the udder and the milking machine itself are washed.
Every day we check milk for antibiotics: we pour it into a test tube with a small amount of earth fertilized with agar If there is an antibiotic in the milk, it turns blue – the agar reacts instantly.
Evening milk is supplied to the cheese factory every morning by farms. These are private family businesses, many of which have been supplying parmesan producers with high quality milk for several centuries. To make a kilogram of cheese, you need 16 liters of milk, and for a standard head weighing 35–40 kilograms, more than 550 liters.
Instead of antibiotics
Parmesan has unique nutritional properties, as it contains more vitamins and minerals than any other known cheese.
“It’s only 30% water, the other 70% is healthy nutrients. For comparison: other cheeses are at least half moisture, – says dietitian, specialist in eating disorders Silvia Bigucci.
– In 100 grams of Parmigiano-Reggiano there are as many proteins as in 300 grams of beef, but much less cholesterol. 50 grams of Parmesan satisfies 70% of the body's daily requirement for calcium, 50% for proteins, 40% for phosphorus and 140% for vitamin B12.
In 2005, at a conference on nutrition in Reggio nel Emilia, the doctor of the working group on nutrition standards at the ISS Multilateral Board of Medical Operations, Lyudmila Gurova, said that after long microbiological studies, Parmigiano was included in the diet of astronauts of the Mir station and the ISS.
— It is perfectly digestible and contains an increased amount of calcium, which the human body loses in a state of weightlessness. Parmesan helps astronauts restore its norm, explained Dr. Gurova.
Nutriticians from the Italian Winter Sports Federation (Federazione Italiana Sport Invernali) confirm that Parmigiano-Reggiano has long been on the menu of many teams, from football to skiing. According to them, a plate of pasta, generously sprinkled with formaggio, gives the athlete more energy than any vitamins and nutritional supplements.
Parmigiano is the only dairy product that is allowed for lactose allergy sufferers, this cheese does not contain it! Already at the initial stages of preparation, a number of beneficial bacteria develop extremely quickly in it, which completely break down lactose, which does not happen with other cheeses.
And because of the many enzymes that help to easily absorb this formaggio, they feed even babies. A baby crawling in an arena and sucking on a Parmesan crust is a common sight in Italian homes.
It has been scientifically proven that after 15-18 months of exposure, parmigiano enzymes acquire therapeutic properties, – claims Silvia Bigucci, – thanks to which they treat viral and bacterial enteritis, which babies so often suffer from. Forma can completely replace antibiotics in these cases.
The secret ingredient
Every day, tourists from America, Russia, Japan, EU countries come to the parmesan provinces of Emilia-Romagna to see the production of a unique cheese. Specialists in cheese making also come here.
— We regularly meet with colleagues from Germany, France and Australia. Russian? I don’t remember,” Antonio Carabetta wrinkles his forehead. “We tell them everything and show them without hiding. And they try, they do it according to the rules, only they don’t succeed with parmesan. Totally different taste and quality. And it doesn't last long. No one succeeds.
Why? There are several versions. First, it's about the nutrition of the cows. They are said to eat certain types of herbs that grow only near Parma and produce a special “Parmesan” milk.
According to another version, it all depends on the climate. Emilia-Romagna is famous for its wet and foggy winters – ideal, according to cheese makers, for the maturation of parmigiano.
The third reason is mystical. Rumor has it that the monks received a recipe for a unique cheese from higher divine powers. Otherwise, how to explain its supernaturally beneficial properties? How does it produce so many vitamins and minerals? Science does not give an exact answer. Manufacturers simply follow the recipe bequeathed by the monks and get the result.
Cheese maker Antonio Carabetta, especially for “Around the World”, conducted a tour of the cheese factory and spoke about the peculiarities of the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan” src=”/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/bez-antibiotikov-po-drevnemu-receptu-monahov-kak-i-gde-delajut-nastojashhij-parmezan-3243fc0.jpg” alt=”Without antibiotics, according to the ancient recipe of the monks: how and where real parmesan is made” />
The dairy has five rooms. The first one is spacious and bright, with large windows, white tiled walls and floors, reminiscent of a laboratory.
Cheese makers, four men and one woman, are dressed in light trousers and shirts, oilcloth aprons and white rubber boots .
Everywhere there are domed boilers equipped with a heating system. In them, 1000 liters of milk are heated to 35 ° C for 10 minutes, then rennet is added. Right before your eyes, the milk thickens and coagulates, turning into a jelly-like mass.
It is stirred or, in professional terms, smashed with an instrument under the name “back”. As a result, countless curd grains the size of rice are formed, they settle on the round bottom of the boiler.
According to Antonio, the finer the particles, the firmer the parmesan. At the bottom, the grains of the future king of cheeses are firmly connected into a cheese block. It takes 40-45 minutes. After that, the cheese makers, rotating the boiler, roll the mass along the walls, giving it roundness.
Then, having rolled the parmigiano-reggiano blank onto the 1 fabric, three or four of them pull it out of the boiler and hang it by the hooks for another 40 minutes to glass the liquid 2 .
Strong hands are needed here, because the weight of the product is about 100 kilograms. When excess moisture is gone, the block is cut in half along the circumference with a large sharp knife – two standard parmesan heads are obtained, similar to slightly deformed barrels.
Completed contours of the cheeses are purchased in open plastic containers 3 , in which they are left to dry for another day.
And then they are transferred to steel molds for 2-3 days, during which a crust is formed. Then the name of the company and the date of production 4 are squeezed out on it.
Now the parmigiano is ready for salting. For this procedure, there is a room with a temperature not exceeding 22 ° C. Almost all of its space is occupied by a rectangular container with very salty water.
Using a mini tap (seems to be the only mechanized device at a cheese factory) metal shelves with Parmesan are immersed in water. The cheese stays there for 25 days 5.
It is impossible to oversalt it, – assures Antonio. -Parmigiano is such an intelligent cheese that it absorbs as much salt as it needs.
Salty parmesan is transferred for a couple of days to the so-called hot room so that it “sweats”. At 35-37 ° C, unnecessary water quickly evaporates from it. Then the cheese maker wipes each head with a piece of 6 cotton linen and takes it to a warehouse for maturation 7.
“In winter, we make 54 cheese heads a day, and in summer, when cows give less milk, 45–48,” Antonio calculates. “Has something changed in technology over nine centuries? Maybe control over the quality of milk has increased.
A tap has appeared that lowers cheeses into salt water. The cheese heads on the shelves of the warehouse are now turned over by the machine so that they do not stale and evenly receive air. But this is only in the last 10 years, before everything was done by people.
At the right time, tasters from the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium tap the cheeses with a hammer and by the sound they determine whether there are cracks in them or not 8. Non-solid ones are rejected, and the rest are stamped with the quality seal D.O.P.Parmesan without this sign is a fake.
Memo to the traveler
DISTANCE from Moscow to Milan – 2290 km (from 3 hours in flight). From Milan to Parma – 120 km (1 hour by high-speed train)
TIME behind Moscow by two hours
< strong>CURRENCY Euro
What to do
SEE Food Museum, more precisely, as many as four under one sign: museums of salami, prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano and tomato. They are located in different villages within a radius of 10-15 km from Parma, close to the farms – producers of delicious exhibits.
EAT risotto alla parmigiana at the Gallo d'Oro restaurant.
DRINK of Lambrusco del Gallo red sparkling wine at the same restaurant.
LIVEat the Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati hotel with stunning views of Parma's Cathedral Square.
MOVE by bus (€1.20) – ticket for unlimited travel for 60 minutes, 3 euro day ticket).
BUYas a gift a traditional Parma cheese cutting board with a mini-dagger, for yourself acqua di Parma perfume.
Photos : Andrey Rudakov, especially for “Around the World”; WWW.MUSEIDELCIBO.IT, STOCKFOOD/FOTODOM (X2), DIOMEDIA (X2), WWW.PALAZZODALLAROSAPRATI.IT