The King of Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Want to know more ? Check out this free culinary guide to Modena Italy.
Modena, Italy

Did you grow up in the 80s with that old green can of grated parmesan for your spaghetti?

I did.

It tasted like salty sawdust and no one got excited about it but what else are you going to put on your pasta?

Oh how far we’ve come.

We tossed the can and started spending lots of money on delicious cheese.

And so I was so excited to come to Modena and learn how to make parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Visiting Hombre Farm was particularly special because it’s an organic farm so while there are very strict rules to making parmigiano-reggiano in the region, they also comply to another set of strict organic rules.

Only 12 wheels are produced daily from 6000 litres of milk; the cows listen to classical music while being milked and no humans are allowed in.

I was so excited to jump in and start shooting a video until I realized I would need to be behind a plastic window way above the cheesemakers.

That doesn’t really make for exciting footage so I pleaded for them to allow me on the floor.

Sometimes all you need to do is ask.

fresh parmesan

The two cheesemakers were so accommodating and told my translator that having a pretty girl on the floor was the most excitement they’ve had in ages.

Watching them handle the cheese it was clear they had been doing this for years, chatting and laughing while they lifted and manipulated the beast of cheese that would become a wheel.

parmigiano reggiano

Oh the glorious smell.

The wheels are taken to salt for 18 days and then they arrive here on the farm to age.

Opening the door you’re slapped in the face with an overpowering salty, earthy flavour.

Strolling down the aisles there are wheels at varying ages, some with  the marked stamp of approval, date and code as each wheel is tracked by the Protection of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Like prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, parmigiano-reggiano is a DOP product.

It represents the land and culture of the region.

It can only be produced in Emilia Romagna to be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The wheels don’t simply sit and age but are cleaned and checked every 15 days.

At 12 months the Consortium assesses the cheese with the traditional “tap test” and if it passes it can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.

But most of the cheese at Hombre stays much longer, they volunteer for a second test at 18 months to receive an additional grade of quality and sell the wheels at 24 months and 36 months.

I half-joked about taking a wheel home to find out each one weighs 80 pounds for a price of 700 Euro.

Instead I left with 30 Euro worth of the 36 months “stravecchio” not knowing if I can clear it through customs, we may have to keep that our secret.

If you’re still eating that green can of grated parmesan you have no idea what you’re missing.

Disclosure: I partnered with the Emilia Romagna Tourism board to shoot these videos and write a culinary guide for Modena. Opinions are always my own, because who wouldn’t love Italian cheese.

If you want to know more about eating in Italy – the customs, traditions and food
check out my free culinary travel guide to Modena.

Join the Conversation

  1. Martine @ Chompchomp says:

    How brilliant that you got to tour through the cheese factory and see how it is made. I love getting to go behind the scenes for food production. It makes a holiday so much more interesting and allows to you to appreciate even more what lands on your plate.

  2. YUM-MY!!! Looks really good! I hope you are having an amazing trip and Im looking forward to more great posts!!
    But Im also a Wisconsin girl and Im used to the best cheese on the planet from right here at home. We spent our summers within walking distance of small, family-run cheese factory and could watch them making cheese all the time. The best part was getting there in time for the fresh curds which they would sell us right from the vat – all warm and salty. Just incredible!!

  3. Love slices of fresh shaved parm all over my pastas! Had some tonight with a little olive oil and sun dried tomatoes with fresh oregano. The saltiness of the cheese makes the dish so much better! I get so mad without cheese!

  4. Wow! What a fabulous tour you had, I can only imagine being surrounded by so much cheese, Ah! the smell of it! Wonderful post 🙂

  5. We had no problem bringing our cheese back from Italy into the states. I’m curious to know how it works for you.

  6. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says:

    Do you know the entire time I was in Italy I turned down parmesan EVERY time it was offered to me? Shame on me. I was picturing that green can and I wanted no part of it. Now after this post I am regretting that decision, because I seriously love cheese.

  7. kavita Bokhiria says:

    Lucky you!!! I wish I could go and see it. Interesting blog!!

  8. Kate @ Vagrants Of The World says:

    I remember the old green can all to well and I now love good Parmesan too much to even think about going back there -ever!. Great story and I love your blog. Cheers!

  9. My dream trip!! Wow, what incredible photos. I know have to go pour myself a glass of red wine. Amazing!

  10. Whoa! Great tour for me. 🙂
    Love the tempting pics. I think I missed the aroma nd taste in this. 😛 🙂

  11. I had a green can of my own not too long ago. Your videos look amazing! Can’t wait until the entire guide to the area comes out.

  12. I hope that the customs people didn’t take it away from you … and if they did, they certainly didn’t chuck it like the green can 😉

  13. Love this! I’m taking notes for when I spend some slow travel time in Italy. And yes, I grew up with the green can, but fortunately I know better and my kids eat the real thing 🙂

  14. Great post.
    Interesting to know all the science behind the process of making a good cheese. Like a good wine.
    Thanks for all the info.

  15. I would die in one of those tours. I ould eat the whole place.

  16. OMG…it’s only 7am here and you have me salivating over the thought of this glorious cheese right now. I’m not one to say no to parmigiano for any reason, but I love it on a cheese plate, maybe with a side of salami, even more than on top of my spaghetti and meatballs. Time to head to Italy for some of the best!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      We’re already planning our next trip back!

  17. okoye philip says:

    Lol i guess I’ll get an amazing tour, nice pictures

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