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Parmigiano History


Already in texts of the ancient Roman writers Parmigiano-Reggiano is mentioned with reference to a specific production area, and surely we have precise information on how in the Middle Age in the abbeys of the Benedictine and Cistercian monks of the Po Valley, the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano was started using techniques that are still being used today. In particular, in the Po Valley between the Apennines and the right bank of the Po river, the monks who were skilled farmers, reclaimed fenlands, tilled fields sowing enough fodder plants to be able to breed cattle. Clover and lucern were the first products to be cultivated in those fields, and they are still essential to feed cows and to have a really savoury cheese, well seasoned and with a delicate flavour, without adding additives nor preservatives that might be harmful to the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Only then, having many heads of cattle, the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano could be started, a production that required approximately 600 litres of milk to produce just a single whole cheese that at that time, just like nowadays, can weigh 40 kg. So, close to the big monasteries and main castles, the first dairies were built, small square or polygonal buildings that can still be found in our country-side used to process the milk; in the XII century this was the cradle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

At that time goods began to be exchanged among the various religious communities risen in Italy and in Europe. These exchanges brought to the development of extraordinary invention of quality foodstuffs that are appreciated even today: excellent beers, vintage brandy, great red wines and champagne, as well as delicious cheese. The monks did not only start cattle-breeding on a large scale, but in their huge kitchens and in their laboratories they carried out important experiments and made inventions. They discovered that by a double heating of milk at an adequate and controlled temperature, a paste with few remaining water could be obtained, that was an essential condition to produce a long preservation cheese with a high nutritive value and tasty. Soon the big whole cheese, shiny as the sun, caught the attention of the merchants who from the monasteries of the Po Valley brought Parmigiano-Reggiano and made it well-known all over the world. Since then, the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano hasn’t changed much, as the strength of this unique product lies in the strict and rigorous respect of tradition.

    

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