Jason and I were watching Giada De Laurentiis travel through Italy on the Cooking channel last night, and she visited a factory in Parma, Italy where Parmesan cheese is made. I was blown away and hit rewind 3 times, not kidding! Here is a little info on how Parmesan Cheese is made;
Firstly, Parmesan cheese is made with a special blend of two different types of cow’s milk. The full cream milk that is taken from the cows in the morning is mixed with the skimmed milk taken from the same cows on the previous evening. Those cows whose milk is used to produce Parmesan cheese are fed only on grass and hay. This gives the milk with which Parmesan cheese is made a unique consistency that shows in the texture of the cheese later on. The milk is then heated and stirred in huge copper vats which are used specifically because they heat up and cool down so quickly. The curd is then lumped into cheese cloths and made into the shape of a wheel using a metal brace.
One of the characteristics of authentic Parmesan cheese is that it contains no additives or artificial flavourings. The only thing that is allowed to be added to Parmesan cheese to help bring out its flavour is salt. This is done by soaking the wheels of Parmesan cheese in salty brine for a period of twenty days. Once the brining process is finished it is then time to let the Parmesan cheese mature and develop its flavour.
Parmesan cheese must be left to mature for at least 12 months and often this period can be up to two years. The cheeses are kept in special temperature controlled rooms and cleaned regularly while aging. Every wheel of Parmesan cheese is individually inspected to ensure it meets the necessary standards before it is sent for sale.