Of course, parmesan cheese is identified with Italy.
But, Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from only one area of Italy and is classified
by quality into several grades. Back
Part of the cheese factory we visited was in an old church.
The finest quality milk—the cows can only eat hay and whey—is
used for the cheese. After letting the milk sit so that the cream can be
taken off, the milk is put into big vats and the temperature is raised and
the "starter" is added. Once the young cheese is formed
it is removed and soaked in a brine solution for about two
The cheese is
then aged for as long as two years until the proper quality is obtained.
There are two primary ways of determining quality. One is to tap on the cheese like a drum to determine its consistency.
The other is to pierce the cheese with a special tool to determine quality by smell. The end goal of the cheese maker is to be awarded the first quality seal for Parmigiana-Reggiano.
Cheese that doesn't make it into any of the three grades can be sold as parmesan cheese, but not as Parmigiana-Reggiano.