Do you want real Parmesan cheese? Don’t buy it in a can. Cheese isn’t the only thing in that can. There can even be cellulose (not cellulite, mind you), a safe additive that’s allowed to avoid clumping, in it, as this 2016 article from Bloomberg reports. I grew up knowing nothing but the cheese (or “cheese”) in those cans. The real thing is as far from the canned variety as my Nebraska home was from Italy. And the real thing is called Parmigiano Reggiano.
Every aspect of “The King of Cheese” is strictly monitored. As the Bloomberg article states:
Of all the popular cheeses in the U.S., the hard Italian varieties are the most likely to have fillers because of their expense. Parmesan wheels sit in curing rooms for months, losing moisture, which results in a smaller yield than other cheeses offer. While 100 pounds of milk might produce 10 pounds of cheddar, it makes only eight pounds of Parmesan. That two-pound difference means millions of dollars to manufacturers, according to Sommer.
Each of those cheeses has to be turned daily and wiped to get moisture off, a dangerous job now done by machine. Real Parmigiano Reggiano must have a variety of markings on the outside including these obvious and distinctive ones:
Stenciling band, placed entirely around the wheel, which has:
- pre-punched dots bearing the inscription PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO acronym DOP and the inscription CONSORZIO TUTELA
- identification number of dairy
- production month and year
Here’s what a real big cheese looks like. (I especially like this one as it has my birthday on it!) Grate it yourself for an incomparable taste. If you find it on sale, freeze a chunk and grate as needed. And toss the can!