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The Making of Mighty — How Land and Hand Make Parmigiano Reggiano King

By John Stewart, February 19, 2014  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by John Stewart

Is it nature or nurture that gives the mighty Parmigiano Reggiano the intensity, complexity and sheer size of flavor that has earned it the title King of Cheese? Turns out it’s both.

The Land

The cradle of cheese royalty can be found in only one place — the fertile, green Po River Valley in northern Italy. Here, cows dine only on grasses and clovers, creating the perfectly flavored milk used by the cheesemakers. If it’s not from Po, it’s not Parmigiano Reggiano.

For more than 1,000 years, hot summers, cool winters and rainy springs have shaped the unique aging conditions for each grand wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. Summer heat intensifies flavors, while cooler months give the cheese time to set and come into its own.

Sea salt from the nearby Mediterranean or Adriatic imparts that crowning richness.

The Hand

Parmigiano ReggianoEvery day of the year, since the 1300s (and likely much earlier!), cheesemakers have been handcrafting small batches of Parmigiano Reggiano in the same traditional way.

Each dairy milks its cows twice a day. Evening milk sits overnight to concentrate flavors and allow the cream to rise and separate. Once the night milk is skimmed, the morning’s whole milk is added. This process is unique to Parmigiano Reggiano.

Whole Foods Market cheesebuyers visit each dairy and select wheels made only with spring and fall milk. We think this brings out the richest flavors in the cheese.

Copper vats, able to quickly heat and cool, hold the milk for stirring, settling and heating, as they have done for hundreds of years.

The royal bath. A day or two after the wheels have taken form, they receive a brine bath. Several days of salty soaking allow saline crystals to ease their way in and around the cheese, forming the rind.

“Two summers” is the traditional mantra of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheesemaker. The belief is that one summer’s heat energizes enzymes, kick-starting their flavor-enhancing work. The next summer takes those flavors to the intensely complex, nutty, sweet, grassy, creamy heights the cheese is known for.

We couldn’t agree more, which is why our stores only carry Parmigiano Reggiano that has aged 24 months.

The royal insignia. You know the authentic King of Cheese when you see it — every wheel has “Parmigiano Reggiano” imprinted on the rind in pin dots. Wheels destined for Whole Foods Markets are also hot-branded, telling you the cheese within is of the highest export-only quality.

Parmigiano Reggiano - The Mightiest of Cheeses Contest

Win a Trip to Italy!

You’ve read about Parmigiano Reggiano, now it’s your turn to write about it! One lucky entrant who writes the mightiest of pitches about the mightiest of cheeses will win a Whole Journey’s Bicycle Trip for Two in Italy.

Pedal through historic towns in the Po River Valley, eat local traditionally prepared foods, tour cheesemaking dairies, and bask in the beauty and history of the region.

Visit www.wholefoods.com/mightiestcheese by March 2 to submit your pitch in 140 characters or less (including the hashtag #wfmcheese). You'll find contest details and official rules on the site as well.

We can’t wait to see what you write and crown a winner!

Category: Cheese

 

20 Comments

Comments

Janewarnock says ...
#wfmcheese It breathes with me; it experiences and responds to our shared environment. People often say it enhances the foods it is paired with, yet I believe it is enhanced by the food it is paired with. Cheese is ever-changing and constantly developing until it has been totally "appreciated."
02/21/2014 7:09:19 PM CST
Trina Sams says ...
Can I enter using email? I do not Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.
02/24/2014 8:55:44 AM CST
tara vann says ...
trying to just eat as healthy as possible
02/24/2014 9:44:15 AM CST
Kate says ...
I love me some Italy! Such an amazing place, with amazing people and amazing food!
02/24/2014 10:38:11 AM CST
Neeta. Mcpheeters says ...
Love love love whole foods cheese wine olives choclate E
02/24/2014 12:02:18 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@TRINA - This is specifically a social contest so you must enter with a Twitter or Facebook account.
02/24/2014 12:37:00 PM CST
ginny murray says ...
variety of cheeses at whole foods is amazing. I share the cheese variety with many groups I'm involved in. Keep picking those amazing cheese from around the world. Thanks so much.
02/26/2014 2:28:13 PM CST
Kai Shepherd says ...
Love the article on Parmigiano Reggianom always like a bit of insight as to how things work or are made. Thank you.
02/26/2014 5:34:10 PM CST
Christina says ...
Oh how I wish to taste all the delicious foods of Italy and of course with a side of cheese please...
02/26/2014 5:47:45 PM CST
Teresa Vanderhagen says ...
Who doesn't want to marry the King and this King marries so well with locally prepared foods.Intricate or simple the star of the dish is Parmigiano Reggiano! It's well worth" Two Summers".
02/26/2014 10:37:31 PM CST
Karen Spector says ...
Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of the cheeses to top pasta, vegetables and salads. The flavor is tongue tantalizing as it bursts with tastiness. A pasta without Parmigiano Reggiano is not worth eating because it is this delicious cheese that makes the meal an incredible treat.
02/26/2014 10:41:15 PM CST
Chris Reid says ...
Can't wait to enjoy the cheese, fresh made in Italy.
02/27/2014 8:45:39 AM CST
Alexandra says ...
#wfmcheese Parmigiano Reggianon is the one of my favorite chesses. It's great on the pasta and salads. It's g full of flavor , I do not even use dressing when I put parmigiano reggiano on my salad and keeps me full. I also love chips of Parmigiano reggiano and whole foods have great selection of cheeses.
02/27/2014 1:58:40 PM CST
Susan Eberwein says ...
Just the way that "Parmigiano Reggiano" rolls off the tongue is music to my ears and a delight to my tummy. Robust, Rich, Versatile is what this cheese is. It never disappoints and always enhances anything that it is served with or on or in. Say Cheese :)!!
02/27/2014 6:01:38 PM CST
Kathleen Brown says ...
I've written a great 'story' on your enter for the mighty pitch - after clicking on Submit.....it appeared to stay @ SUBMITTING.....never to accept or ZIP!!!! I've printed my 'manuscript' and will await your reply...I love to write, I'm of Italian heritage & would love to ride my bike along the Po Path! Please respond! Gratsi! Prego! Kathleen Brown of Phoenix, AZ
02/28/2014 2:19:24 AM CST
Ava Paracsi says ...
I love special combinations as my taste buds are tickled with the flavorful mix of these two cheeses!!!!!
03/01/2014 11:36:04 AM CST
Gigi James says ...
I don't see my contest submission listed here. It was submitted yesterday. Thanks!
03/03/2014 2:01:09 PM CST
Chris says ...
Tasted Parmigiano from a freshly cracked wheel at Whole Foods and it was the greatest and would love to peddle through Italy to learn to make, and taste, cheese. Throw on top how to use in new recipes and it would be a true memory maker of a lifetime.
03/03/2014 2:30:53 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@GIGI - The contest entries do not go live to this blog post but they are submitted through the contest website.
03/03/2014 5:01:45 PM CST
Sally Wood says ...
I love Parmigiano Reggiano as much as I love Italy and have wanted to return for years! Can't think of a more fun way and if Whole Foods is involved then I'm sure it will be of excellence! Mille Grazi! Sally Wood
03/04/2014 3:21:15 PM CST