Hombre Parmigiano-Reggiano. The King of cheeses : Italian cookery holiday Taste Trails Rome
Continuing our tour of Emilia Romagna, Taste Trails Rome Italian cookery holidays next stop was Modena and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmigiano Reggiano's history can be traced way back to the Middle Ages. It was first produced in the Po Valley by Cistercian monks as large wheels of cheese that could be easily stored but, above all, might help sustain pilgrims on their long journeys south to Rome and Assisi.
Nowadays, in order to carry the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) mark, Parmigiano Reggiano must be made in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Parma, Modena, an area of Bologna on the left bank of the river Reno, or Mantua, on the right bank of the river Po.
DOP Parmigiano Reggiano, made with infinite care, so special and utterly different to Gran Padeno (widely regarded an inferior, usually industrial substitute). Parmigiano Reggiano's physically demanding production is still resolutely artisanal. It is among the healthiest of cheeses: so low in lactose that it is suitable for the lactose intolerant, high in calcium, easily digestible and has one of the lowest cholesterol levels of any cheese. It also has the natural propensity to age exceptionally well.
There are around 500 caselli, or artisan producers, whose cheeses are all periodically monitored as they mature by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano, the official group responsible for the quality of the production and certification. The wheels are checked by tapping the rind with a special little hammer that can divine any problems from the sound. Parmigiano Reggiano mezzano denotes a 12-month wheel meant to be eaten young. Parmigiano Reggiano are suitable for longer ageing, 24 months or more, and the additional branding of Extra denotes an ultra-superior wheel. Each carries an ID code number for the dairy plus month and year of production: the higher numbers signify the more robust cheeses made in the mountains while lower numbers are from valley Caseificio and considered the most prized. What's critical – and already appreciated by the Italians and beginning to be more widely understood – is that the cattle breed vitally affects the taste
Of the 500 or so artisan producers only around 4% are organic and one of those is Hombre Modena , run by Matteo Panini - does the surname sound familiar ? Matteo is the son of Umberto, the founder of the famous Panini football sticker albums .
Matteo even though Hombre was closed welcomed us on blazing hot Sunday August afternoon after we had followed a farm worker into their estate along a tree lined driveway.
The elegant Matteo who was working on a Maserati in the museum workshop ( only in Italy! ) took the time to explain what Hombre was all about and the thinking behind everything they do to produce some of the finest Parmigiano in the region.
Each one of these organic wheels of cheese weighs approximately 40 Kilos and sells for around 800 Euros. Hombre is able to produce about 12 of these wheels a day from his herd of Friesians who incidentally listen to classical music throughout their day. A happy cow....
The beauty of a visit to Hombre is not only to taste the Parmigiano but also to visit the private museum of the Panini family, this amazing display of vintage cars has one of the world’s most complete collections of Maseratis. And with Maranello and Ferrari just down the road , the country lanes where full of super cars on this sunny Modena afternoon.
Next stop for Taste Trails Rome Italian cookery holiday , Nerone Balsamico of Villa San Donnino.
With a Taste Trails Rome Italian cookery holiday you will on a daily basis be tasting some of Italy's finest foods - Parmigiano-Reggiano is most definitely amongst them.
Want to experience for yourself many more Italian artisan foods ? Well you can on our Italian cookery holidays . We run the Italian cookery holidays through out the year from March to November . A warm welcome awaits.