Parmesan Cheese – Specialty Cheese or Wanted Commodity?

Parmesan Cheese – Specialty Cheese or Wanted Commodity?

Andy Jones

Would you believe that Parmesan cheese is an interest to the Italian Mafia? According to Wikipedia, between 2013 and 2015, over two thousand wheels of cheese were stolen from warehouses in northern and central Italy. A condiment so many of us take for granted as we sprinkle or grate it over salads, soups, pasta, pizza, and toasted bread is something being highjacked by organized crime gangs in Italy!

Legally labelled “Parmigiana-Reggiano, authentic Parmesan is only allowed to be produced and called by its name in certain provinces within Italy. Since it is often called the “King of Cheeses”, Italian law takes duplication serious and does not consider imitation a form of flattery.


A Tour of Production

O’Live A Little Food & Gift Co. founders, Matt and Jennifer, enjoy touring the homeland and production facilities of as many cheeses, vinegars, and olive oils as possible to learn about the process and authenticity of their products. On one such trip, they explored Parma, Italy to learn more about Parmesan cheese. Let’s take a picture tour of the Consorzio di Tutela-approved facility they visited to learn how it is produced, stored, and shipped before reaching their stores in Canton, CT and South Windsor, CT.

The start of the morning mix for Parmigiano-Reggiano

The first step in the process is to combine the morning milking of unpasteurized cow’s milk with the last evening’s naturally skimmed milk. When you combine these two milkings, it produces a partial skim mixture that is pumped into copper-lined vats because of their ability to heat and cool quickly.

Copper vats are about 10 feet deep and are used due to their ability to heat up and cool down quickly

FUN FACT: Each vat is filled with 291 gallons of milk per vat, which makes 2 wheels (145 gallons per wheel).

100-pound cheese wheel ready for removal from vat

Once the cheese is poured into the copper-lined vats, the starter whey is added and then the temperature is raised and lowered several times to complete the curdling process. The workers use muslin to remove the final, compacted curd and divide it into two pieces. While the final wheel will weight 84 pounds, at this stage it weighs about 100 pounds.

Workers will then siphon out the remaining whey to feed local pigs that are used to produce “Prosciutto di Parma”, a cured Parma ham.

FUN FACT: Each wheel of cheese is approximately 7 – 9 inches high and 16-18 inches around.

Jennifer shown on tour with the parmesan cheese molds.

 

Cheese from various stages of the production process sitting in the copper vats.

Once the cheese is curdled and removed from the vat, it is poured into molds to create the “wheeled” look of authentic, specialty Parmesan cheese. A day or two later, the workers will remove the spring-belt from the mold and stamp the cheese to provide the authentic stamp with the Parmesan-Reggiano name and information about its production date. In another day or two, the imprint will remain in the cheese without the mold wrapped around it. The cheese is washed in a brine bath and transported to aging rooms where it will remain for 12 months. During this time the shelves and cheeses are washed and the cheese in turned every seven days.

The final stamp labels the product for authenticity.

When the cheese ages to 12 months, it is inspected for quality to ensure each wheel meets high standards required for specialty cheeses. The inspector, called a Master Grader, looks for cracks and voids that should not be within the wheel. Any wheels that don’t meet the standards will have lines either branded through the authenticity stamp or have the authenticity stamp removed from the rind so buyers will know the cheese they are purchasing doesn’t live up to the standards of top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Once this process is complete, wheels will be moved to another aging room for a year to continue aging through the 24-month mark. The final cheese product will have a sharp, fruity, nutty taste that is very savory.

Matt and Jennifer standing in the aging room with 24-month aged cheese.

 

This tour shows us the production of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is important to note differs from the generic parmesan you buy from popular-food or generic companies in containers on your grocery store’s inner aisles.

(The information for this article came from Matt and Jennifer’s tour guide and was supplemented by information collected on Wikipedia. Please see the Wikipedia article for the history, other uses, and similar cheeses, if interested.)

Tasty Recipes Using Parmesan

To try a new way to use Parmesan cheese in your home, try these tasty recipes from our Recipe section.

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Bring on the Wings

Bring on the Wings

Andy Jones

Delicious Recipes from O’Live A Little - Where Specialty Hot Sauces Abound

We were sad to see Matt’s beloved Buffalo Bills make an early exit from the Playoffs, this year – but another prized “export” – that spicy little chicken wing made famous by the city with the same name will be making an appearance in living rooms everywhere when the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.


Matt, a Buffalo native, is seen here enjoying the “real deal” at Anchor Bar

Buffalo wings go hand-in-hand with the big game, and don’t forget, the Winter Olympics are right around the corner, too.

Here are two recipes you can’t go wrong with:

#1 Real Buffalo Chicken Wings

This is an authentic wing recipe just like they serve in the Capital of Chicken Wings, Buffalo, NY.

The wings are deep-fried, then splashed with hot sauce and served with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks... that’s how they serve them in Buffalo! If you don’t want to fuss with home-made Bleu Cheese dressing, use Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing, that’s what people from Buffalo use!

This is one of those marvelously messy meals! Serve with lots of beer! Go Pats!!!!

Complete Recipe

 

 #2 O’Live A Little’s Balsamic & Honey Glazed Chicken Wings

Believe it or not, hot sauces all over the world have their origins from the same region extending between Mexico and Bolivia. Approximately 2,000 years ago, indigenous people in Central America began cultivating hot chili peppers and developing a spicy paste to add “flare” to local cuisine.

During the 16th Century, Spanish Conquistadors discovered local inhabitants in the Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan had developed distinct strains of anchos, jalapenos, and smoked chipotles. Through their world travels and involvement in  the international spice trade, these conquerors introduced “hot sauce” to cultures in Europe, Asia and the Far East.

Here is a sticky, sweet and spicy variation on the classic chicken wing. The sesame seeds sprinkled on top give it an Asian twist!!

Complete Recipe

 

Fun Facts About Buffalo Wings

 They were invented in 1964 at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY by Teressa Bellissmo after receiving an order of chicken wings instead of her expected order of chicken necks.

In 2015, Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti set a world record by eating 444 wings in 26 minutes.

It’s widely believed that Frank’s Red Hot was the original hot wings sauce.

The average American eats 90 chicken wings per year.

Americans will eat approximately 1.25 billion wings on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

Some like it Hot, Hot, Hot!!

With monikers like the Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion, and Ghost Pepper, we can just imagine what certain hot peppers will do to your mouth. And we all

know someone who seeks out these culinary adventures that make their face turn red and their forehead break out in a sweat and they call that FUN!!

With locations in South Windsor & Canton, CT, we are your local source for unique hot sauces & organic honey

Chili peppers are hot because they contain capsaicin. This substance is an irritant to mammals and creates a burning sensation upon contact. In most species, this is a natural deterrent - with the exception being the human species.

The spiciness of a pepper is measured by its Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). In 2013, the Carolina Reaper was named the world’s hottest pepper with a 2.2 million SHU!

An official hot sauce must be derived from hot peppers. In the U.S., most hot sauces historically were created in Louisiana, including Tobasco sauce, which was mass produced starting in 1868.

 

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Unique Gifts for the Holidays and Other Special Occasions at O’Live A Little

Jennifer Ostrowski Jill Babcock

We have more than just Olive Oil – Amazing Gift Baskets made to impress

Is it just us? Or do the holidays get busier and “crazier” every year!?

It never hurts to have some creative ideas to turn to in the waning days before the big celebrations begin. If you have a loved one who happens to be a “foodie”, our stores in South Windsor and Canton have an eclectic selection of delicacies from around the world.

Need something to impress that certain host or hostess who has “everything”? Perhaps you could use some “out-of-the-ordinary” gift baskets to thank business clients and “A-List” customers – we can help.

Each of our central Connecticut locations has over 50 delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars “on tap”. These are not items you find in the grocery aisles. Unique infusions and flavor abound – and add complexity and all-natural flavor to any dish.

 

But olive oil is only the beginning. Add an assortment of local and specialty items like pasta, sauce, condiments, and international cheese selections to design a one-of-kind gift basket that excites the taste buds.

Cool ideas like our “beer & bacon” box, or bourbon infused jams and exotic honey flavors will appeal to that certain someone on your list.

At O’Live A Litte Food & Gift Co., our collection is perfect for year ‘round occasions, not just Christmas and New Year’s. Whether your shopping for a birthday, anniversary, house warming or specialized corporate gift, our staff of flavor experts is standing by to help you finalize and prepare your gifts for delivery.

 

 

To learn more about what we have for gift ideas, watch Jennifer Ostrowski featured on CT STYLE on WTNH Channel 8!

View Some Photos From Our Interview:

 

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