THE king of Italian cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano is also known as Parmesan, which it was called until 1951 when a small number of artisan producers worked to protect their product.
In 1996 the version of it made in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Parma, where it originated, and in Modena and Mantua, was granted its DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) under European Union regulations.
The cheese is cut from majestic 30kg wheels which, whole or cut into, are a thing of intoxicating, appetising beauty.
They are stamped with their own identity mark so we can find out what dairy produced its milk, the month and year of production.
A good Parmesan wheel will have a gold to brown colour, and inside the crumbly cheese will be an appetising ivory colour, sometimes more like straw in colour.
It should be salty, drying out as it ages, always finely grained, and most importantly the flavour should always be rich.
A granular texture comes from the way the curd is cut during production and crystallisation occurs too if it is cut before storing, so you will find little pockets that catch in the teeth and melt in the mouth.
I serve wedges of aged Parmesan with Irish honey and the contrast of the salty and sweet makes a perfect end to a meal.
Shavings of Parmesan on salad leaves are a wonderful portent of summer.
With the scent of rocket and herbs in the air, we can make a feast, so,
I sought today to see if the price equalled quality.
Real Olive stall Parmigiano Reggiano (€28/kg)
While this cheese is guaranteed to be two years old, this one currently in stock is in fact three years old (the ideal is 2.5 years).
Milk from one small farm helps to nurture a high standard and it shows in this excellent cheese.
Every one of the tasters appreciated it and preferred it. Creamy, slightly crystalline, full flavoured, delicious!
Delitaly Parmigiano Reggiano 200g €5.40 (€27/kg)
Quite a dry texture here, it lacks depth of flavour. Better for adding texture in soups rather than for taste. From Marlborough Street, Cork shop.
Marks & Spencer Grated Parmigiano Reggiano 100g €5.49 (€54.90/kg)
We looked at the cheaper Cook With range of grated parmesan (€42.40kg) and compared it to the more expensive Parmigiano Reggiano and found that the additional cost was more than justified by its excellent flavour.
There was a huge price difference between the two solid wedges — a whopping €24.68 per kilo.
Tasters gave the more expensive Parmigiano Reggiano a high score, but once told the price difference had some doubts about it being worth it.
Aldi Specially Selected Parmigiano Reggiano 200g
Left to mature for 24 months, this has a good texture, but it is low on flavour. The grated version is too finely grated and lacks flavour.
Iago Parmigiano Reggiano €8.91 (€34.80/kg)
At least 24 months maturing delivered a dry texture and just a mild flavour.
Better for cooking with and to finish off hot vegetables. Beautiful full wheels are worth looking at in the shop. From 9, Princes Street, Cork.
Lidl Lovilio Grana Padano grated 150g €2.49 (€16.60/kg)
Grana Padano is the generic, colloquial name for Italian hard cheese and is usually aged for six months less than Parmesan, though this one was aged for 16 months.
The wedge delivered good depth of flavour, much better than the grated version, which had a waxy texture.
Add half a point more for the wedge (€17.45/kg). Buy the wedge and keep in fridge to grate freshly.
On the Pig’s Back 210g €6.64 (€31.69/kg)
This cheese is not guaranteed to be more than 18 months and with a slightly dry start, gets nicely creamy in the mouth, with a good rich flavour.
Not too salty.
From English Market, Cork and Douglas shops. Good for shavings.
Tesco Finest Parmigiano Reggiano DOP 170g €4.89 (€28.76/kg)
We compared this luxury label to the basic Tesco Parmigiano Reggiano (€17.45/kg) and found a huge difference in these two for the extra €10/kg.
The cheaper Parmigiano Reggiano was over salted and dry (scoring 5.5). The Finest had a much fuller flavour with a dryness that went nicely creamy in the mouth with some crystals.
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