Parmigiano Reggiano: aged, stored, liked – and adulterated – economical

To understand what this hard cheese is all about, one has to go back in its 1000-year history. In the Benedictine times, monks who, in search of a stable food, started shaping salty cheese into large round loaves. Or in the literature of the Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio, who in the mid-fourteenth century created his own image of the land of milk and honey in his collection of novels “Il Decamerone”. He guessed one thingA mountain of grated Parmesan on which people stood who made only pasta and egg dumplings, which they cooked in a capon broth and then dropped from the top, and whoever catches the most at the bottom will have the most. “

Life without Parmigiano at home? Pointless

Parmigiano has always been more than crushed or grated hard cheese served in small pasta pots at a pizzeria. It belongs to an Italian household, as does a box of 50 spaghetti in the basement. Living without at least one piece of Parmigiano in your home where you strip a piece daily and then crumble it into small flakes? Absolutely pointless.

Lunch is not ready until the Parmesan is poured over the pasta with tomato sauce.

(Photo: Bernd Juergens / Imago)

If there is such a thing as one … national form, national cheese poured into a round shape, that is: the Parmigiano-Reggianoas it is called in the original. Weight at least 40 kilograms, made from around 500 liters of milk, matured for 24 to 36 months, price per wheel, depending on this, from 700 to 800 Euro upwards.

However, since real Reggiano can only be produced in a clearly defined area around Parma and Bologna (otherwise it’s just something, but not Parmigiano Reggiano), you can always ask yourself: where do all these weird smelling cheese powders come from – with their questionable ingredients and aromas that can be bought anywhere in the world that are serious about “Parmigiano”? Or maybe a lot of little cheese triangles wrapped in foil that sometimes sparkle a little too yellow?

With the real Reggiano, 2.7 billion euros were sold last year, in 2020 it was 2.35 billion. Real, centuries-old Parmesan cheese is therefore a market for growth. Copyists know it too, so it’s estimated that around two billion euros have been sold recently with counterfeit Parmesan cheese and cheap copies – a lucrative black market overshadowed by the Italian original. That is why the Parmigiano-Reggiano Manufacturers Association has been trying to protect its large wheels with serial numbers for several years.

Solution: chips smaller than rice grains

Parmigiano producers are now using a new digital copy protection for their large cheese wheels: by means of a tracking chip that is inserted into the skin of the cheese wheels, the round specialties from Parma should be digitally recordable as well as traceable.

The Land of Cockaigne is thus technically modernized, some 700 years after Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. The cheese consortium says the new Parmesan cheese technology combines ‘food-grade casein labels with a P-chip transponder’. First of all – and this is of course important, because it is all about food: anyone who buys and eats such cheese should not notice it. The scannable chip is food safe, “smaller than a grain of salt” and very “durable”. They should be mature after all. Parmigiano Reggiano is not perishable.

In particular, 100,000 cheeses are to be equipped with new digital rice grain tracking in the test phase. If that works, real Parmigiano will probably only be available with French fries in the future, as a high-tech cheese, so to speak. Now the question is, what happens if you rub a chip like this into noodles? It shouldn’t have happened. Because it is in the rind and the hard shell of Parmigiano is usually not rubbed off anyway. Not to mention eating.

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