Parmesan cheese, Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, is a solid cheese with a yellowish crust, made traditionally from whole cow milk and naturally skimmed milk, aged at least 12 months. Its savory flavor is popular and the cheese itself is produced worldwide. The original term Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from two Italian provinces, where the cheese was made. Actually, the name ”parmesan cheese” is an American term for similar types of the original cheese.
Parmesan cheese has a rich fruity flavor and a specific salty taste, perfect for snacks or in cooking. Freshly grated parmesan has a richer flavor and is commonly sprinkled on pastas or salads.
How much does Parmesan cheese cost?
The cost of authentic Parmesan cheese, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, for a whole wheel of around 80lb is anywhere from $1,000 up to $2,000 or more. Also, this cheese can be found in quarter blocks of 20lb as well, which can cost around $300 up to $600. Depending on the cheese brand and the store from where you purchase it, the cost will greatly vary. Usually, real Parmesan cheese is aged for 24 to 48 months, which is another factor that influences the final cost.
For one pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano, you can expect to pay anywhere from $18 up to $27, depending on the time of maturation, brand, and store.
For example, on Amazon.com, you can purchase one lb of Parmigiano-Reggiano aged 24 months, at $26.29. Parmigiano-Reggiano Bonat also sells blocks of 2.3 lb 7 years aged, for the cost of $104.90, being on the top end of the price range.
Almagourmet.com, an online shop that imports Italian specialty food, sells Parmigiano-Reggiano for $345 for a 20 lb quarter block, and $1,450 for a whole wheel of 80lb.
At Costco, you can purchase a whole wheel of 72lb of Kirkland Signature Parmigiano-Reggiano at the cost of $1,150.
However, for Parmesan, a similar version of Parmigiano-Reggiano, you can expect to pay somewhere from $5 to $10 per lb. For instance, at Walmart, grated Parmesan from the Great Value brand costs $5.48 per lb, whilst from the Kraft brand, one pound of grated Parmesan cheese costs $7.34.
Parmesan cheese overview
The production of authentic parmesan cheese began in the Middle Ages. At that time, to reduce food wastage, Italian monks began to mature bulks of cow milk. The name Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from Parma and Reggio-Emillia, two provinces in northern Italy.
Traditionally, this cheese is produced in wheels of around 80 lb of approximately 131 gallons of cow milk and matured for at least 14 months, sometimes even up to 24 months or more.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a rich flavored cheese, with a yellowish crust and a granular texture. This authentic cheese is rich in calcium and protein, made from whole and skimmed cow milk, and prepared only in copper kettles. On the Olioanolive.com website, it is stated that a half ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano has more protein than a portion of chicken.
The flavor gets richer as it ages, which is why it needs a lengthy aging process. Also, Parmigiano does not have any kind of additives. It is produced only from natural milk and salt to amplify the taste.
Whole wheels of authentic parmesan cheese can be found in different stores and purchased by any consumer. However, it is often purchased by restaurants where it is needed in large amounts. Usually, individuals prefer this cheese in smaller amounts such as 16-ounce or 8-ounce containers, and often already grated or shaved.
The most common way of serving this cheese is by sprinkling it on pasta and salads. Also, if you want a full Italian experience, cut small pieces of authentic parmesan cheese with some slices of Prosciutto, some fresh grapes, and a glass of wine. Often it is used in sauces for different dishes.
On the market, you can find different brands that have written 100% parmesan cheese on the label. These types of cheese are commercially produced and they are not prepared according to the traditional recipe. Even if they may have a similar taste and appearance, they are different products, beginning with the ingredients. Unauthentic parmesan may contain several preservatives and artificial flavors.
Romano vs. Parmesan – what’s the difference?
Often people are wondering what is the difference between Romano and Parmesan cheese. People are confused by the similar appearance and texture, the fact that both are hard and dry and that both can be served on salads and pasta.
However, even if both types of cheese are produced in Italy, Romano is from Rome, and Parmesan is from Parma. Also, a bigger difference makes the type of milk used to produce them. For instance, Romano cheese is traditionally made from sheep milk, while Parmesan cheese is from cow milk.
Most importantly, Romano cheese has a saltier and sharper taste, while Parmesan is slightly sweet with a nutty flavor.
Also, Romano cheese has a longer period of aging than the delicious Parmesan cheese.
What are the extra costs?
Generally, vendors who import authentic parmesan cheese from Italy can have shipping fees. Depending on the amount that you purchase, the cost will vary and will add to your overall budget.
Purchasing already grated cheese may be a little more expensive than a whole bulk.
A shredder may be needed in order to grate the piece of parmesan. Although it is optional, it is recommended to purchase this item. Amazon.com sells graters for as little as $2.97 up to $28.97 for a highly rated item.
Important things to consider
The authentic parmesan cheese will always have stamped on its coverage, along with the Italys flag, Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta (DOP), translated as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Only the producers who respect the strict requirements of this traditional process will receive the certification.
Also, the Parmigiano-Reggiano is only produced in northern Italy, in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua.
A strict requirement is that the cows must be raised and fed only with grass and hay.
The process of creating this authentic cheese is a time-consuming and strict process. Another imperative standard is that the cheeses are at least 12 months aged. It can be 16, 24, 36, or even more months. The more it is aged, the better flavor has.
To create the Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole milk and skimmed milk are put together in a container. A vegetal enzyme, known as rennet, is added along with whey and then stirred up. As mentioned, only natural ingredients are allowed.
After the cooking process, this Italian cheese comes in the shape of a ball and then it is put in a mold to create the known shape.
The actual weight, before drying, is around 200 pounds.
To dry out the mixture, several special soft cloths are used.
After 20 days of processing, the cheese is put on a shelf and left to dry for at least 12 months.
To receive the DPO signature, a certified expert will review the cheese after 12 months. If the cheese is according to their requirements, a Consortium seal will be received.
Some producers prefer to let the Parmigiano to age for a longer time. This period of time will give a better taste and will increase the price.
To determine if the parmesan is authentic at first sight, avoid the ones that have a wax-like crust.
Also, the ones with an uneven coloring will definitely be an unauthentic parmesan.
Cracked cheese rinds are better to be avoided.
Usually, retail stores do not have authentic parmesan. For example, Kraft does not produce parmesan after the Italian requirements. It was stated that they used wood chips, as one of the ingredients.
It is recommended that the Parmigiano be stored in a refrigerator for five weeks tops. It must be consumed within this range of time to have the same taste and texture.
For proper storage, wrap the cheese in wax paper, preferably.
The cheese can last up to eight months after the expiry date is exceeded.
People stated that a good substitute may be Grana Padano. It has a similar texture and taste and can be more affordable.
Also, people find similarities between Romano, Manchego, and Asiago.