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Italy, Lesignano de' Bagni I – The Emergence of the Famous Parmigiano Reggiano

Published: 5.5.2019
If you have not resisted the tastes of visiting Parma, do not miss a visit to the farm, where you will be introduced to the process of parmesan, which is an essential part of Italian gastronomy. We are now going to one of these farms near Lesignano de 'Bagni, also known for its thermal springs.

On the way across Emilia-Romagna, we had the opportunity to taste local wines, prosciutto and parmesan. We go to Lesignano de 'Bagni town to enrich our travel experience with the knowledge of the production and taste of Parmigiano Reggiano. We want to reveal what its secrets and unique features are.

míchání mléka, výroba parmezánu

We stop in front of a system of small houses with brick or stone facade in the part called Santa Maria del Piano. As one of many in the area, this family-run company is dedicated to producing the famous Parmigiano Reggiano and offers the opportunity to look behind the scenes.

Behind the windows of one of the buildings we see copper boilers with milk. We get small plastic packs from which we pull out a coat, a drape, a plastic cap and a sleeve. All this due to hygiene during production.

míchání mléka, výroba parmazánu

With the farm owner, we enter a small room where two men process cow's milk for cheese. An activity I could see at our shepherd huts for several times, when a shuck and her assistants in a smoked dark hut at the edge of the forest turned a sheep's milk into cheese. So it probably wouldn't be here! Strict laws did not put these plastic suits on us and we heard only fragments of interpretation because of the noise of the machines.

míchání mléka, výroba parmazánu

Legend has it that Parmigiano Reggiano dates back to the Middle Ages (12th century), from about 30 km distant town of Bibbiano. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents prove that in the 13th and 14th centuries it was very similar to today's. We can even find it in Decameron by Boccaccio (1348).

vybírání sýra, výroba parmazánu

But let's go back to the big copper boilers where the unpasteurized cow's milk from the morning milking is mixed with that of the evening. It was still stored in metal tubs behind our backs. Parmesan is only produced from April 1 to November 11. The initiation culture is added to the mixture and the milk is heated. When the lactic acid content reaches the desired level, rennet is added. Only natural whey culture and calf rennet is allowed, so if you are a vegetarian, Parmesan is not for you. The milk mixture is whisked first with a machine and then manually with a large beater.

formování, výroba parmazánu

During our tour, the thick mixture descended to the bottom of the boiler and formed a large solid mass, which it then took into gauze. They cut and weighed a 100 kg loaf. Two backpacks will continue to form. Even the remaining whey from the boiler will not be wasted. It is used as feed for piglets, which makes the Prosciutto di Parma ham delicious.

namáčení, výroba parmazánu

We move from large copper colts to a room where the cheeses are pressed and molded in steel or plastic molds into well-known chunky loaves with a diameter of 35-45 cm and a thickness of 18-34 cm. One more mold is placed between the mold and the cheese, which prints the name of the cheese, the date of manufacture, the quality label and the seal space on the loaf.

namáčení, výroba parmazánu

We stand in front of the reservoirs, where parmesan is soaked for 15 to 20 days a few days after production. The saline solution in the tank, which is entirely made of Mediterranean salt, is almost completely sipped in the cheese. Salt is absorbed into the center of parmesan after 8–9 months. Only after 14 months are the cheeses tasted and sorted. Those that pass the test are branded with the Consorzio I logo. The straw-yellow to golden-brown loaves stacked side by side on wooden shelves in the warehouses mature and harden for three years. They can then go to the store counters or customer tables.

zrání, výroba parmazánu

But it is still not enough for us! We miss one more part of this story, so we're heading straight to the stable among the cows.

GPS: 44°39'13.4"N 10°18'46.9"E


Text and photos: Anna Nociarová

Edited by: Infoglobe

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