Was Parmigiano Reggiano created in Parma or Reggio Emilia? Many have asked themselves this question, before we learn about this king of cheeses and its history. To fully understand the productions methods of Parmigiano Reggiano, we need to visit the production zone, not just Parma, already home of the famous Ham, but also Reggio Emilia. These are perfect areas to explore by camper, amidst the hills, farmhouses and castles. But first we have to learn the history of Parmigiano Reggiano.
How Parmigiano Reggiano is created
It is about 1000 years old, first produced in the abbeys of the Emilia area. But beyond this, this is a strong historical dispute between those who claim that it was first produced in Reggio, and those who say Parma. At the end of the day, perhaps, it does not really matter, in both these areas you can enjoy this excellence. It you want to learn more, you can visit the Parmigiano Reggiano Museum at Soragna, and you can also park your camper nearby!
But our journey today is an exploration of the production of this incredible Made in Italy cheese across Emilia. As soon as you enter a cheese dairy, you are struck by the hot air and steam, and the cheese-makers who move between the vats, and with their hands “check” the cheese’s density. Each tub contains 500 litres of milk, and during cooking, the cheese-maker breaks the surface of the thickening milk. Each tub produces only two 50kg wheels.
A world built on hard work and experience, that creates the king of cheeses following strict rules and via a controlled supply-chain. This starts right from the milk herds and ends with the burning of the logo into the cheese rind, after 12 months of maturation, followed by a rigorous check by inspectors of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium.
The working of the cheese continues with the wrapping of the cheese in specially-made moulds, allowing the liquid content to escape, and then the salting phase, where the wheels are left to rest in salted water. Next we come to the real maturation phase, where the wheels are stacked up and left to mature until they are ready for consumption.
Tasting Parmigiano Reggiano
In the dairies of Parma and Reggio Emilia, you can take a guided tour and enjoy tasting sessions of the various types available, from the 9-12 month types to the extremely rare 75 month cheese. Visitors are enveloped in smells and colours and these guided tours are a truly unique gastronomic experience. You can also learn the difference between the “Stricòn” cheese and the “Tosone”, two other typical cheese produced in Emilia-Romagna dairies.
The “Stricòn” is created the moment the wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano appears: before the milk is removed and the wheel is tied, a piece of hot cheese is removed and slightly squeezed: this is the “Stricòn” (the dialect form of the Italian word “to squeeze”). The “Tosone” on the other hand is the trimming of the cheese, when it is removed from the PVC wrapping and placed in metal wrapping.
If you want to enjoy the unique expoerience, then check our list of producers in our circuit of Parma and of Reggio Emilia, the perfect start to your weekend in your camper!