Yes, you read that right. Via Umbria is thrilled to report that we’re starting our own Cheese of the Month Club! Here’s the deal: every month, members will be able to pick up half a pound of one of our beautiful cheeses, selected by me, your friendly neighborhood cheesemonger! The cheeses will vary based on season and what is tasting particularly delicious at the moment. We’ll kick off every new month with a tasting event–an evening at the store when you can pick up your new cheese, taste it, learn about how to pair it with beverages and condiments, and ask any questions you may have. It’s a great way to expand your cheesy horizons and try something new and exciting!
Since we’re an Italian store, we decided to kick off this exciting new venture with Parmigiano-Reggiano, the “King of Cheeses.” A classic for a reason, this delicious giant is renowned the world over for its nutty, sour, fruity character. Not to be confused with generic, dusty “Parmesan”, real Parmigiano-Reggiano is, by Italian law, only produced in a handful of provinces in Italy: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Mantua.
Made with partially skimmed raw cow’s milk, the Parmigiano-Reggiano curds are initially packed into 100lb wheels and loaded into stainless steel molds so that they can take on their wheel shape. (Fun fact: the whey that’s siphoned off from the curds during this step is traditionally fed to pigs used for Prosciutto di Parma.) After a few days, the molds are removed and the name “PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO” along with the the plant’s number and the date are printed onto the outside of the cheese. This is an easy way to spot a real wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano–only the real thing will have its name emblazoned on the outside of the wheel. After spending a few weeks in a brine bath to absorb salt, the cheese is then allowed to age for a minimum of 12 months, and a maximum of 36. After being checked for quality and passing inspection, these cheeses make their way to cheese fans around the world.
People have been enjoying Parmigiano-Reggiano since at least the 13th century, and with good reason–it is one of the most versatile cheeses on the planet. It can be grated over pastas, shaved over salads, stirred into soups or risottos, or just cut into chunks and eaten as is. While most people think of this as a rock hard cheese, when it’s first opened and unoxidized, the interior of the wheel, or “heart”, is very soft and full of moisture. It’s only after being exposed to air that the cheese dehydrates and becomes drier and less flavorful. It’s for this reason that we always recommend buying a large chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano as opposed to pre-grated or sliced–the less surface area that’s exposed to air, the more moisture your cheese will retain and the less flavor you will lose.
You’ll have a chance to taste the heart of the Parmigiano-Reggiano when we open our newest wheel at our kick-off Cheese of the Month Club event on Wednesday, June 1st. We’ll taste, talk, drink, and generally get to know all about our inaugural cheese. You can find more information about the Cheese of the Month Club here. Can’t wait to see everyone there!