One of the Supreme Cheeses of the world, the true Parmigiano is nothing to phuk with. The chance finally came around for me to open up one of these beautiful wheels of cheese and I attacked the opportunity head on.
Here, at Al Vedel, we go through about forty wheels of Parmigiano a year. Being closed the whole month of July and a few weeks here and there, that is about a wheel of cheese a week. Hopefully this wont be the last wheel I open (my technique can use some help!!).
On eG, I posted about my visit to a family who makes Parmigiano – check that out.
So – on with the process…How to get into the cheez:
The tools – what we use to open up the wheel is a cheese scoring knife – the one at the bottom with the beaked tip.
Then, the two chisel-like tools are used to shimmy there way into the cheese. Not much force is necessary in the entire process, although the cheese is damn heavy.
Once the cheese is scored with the knife, you jab the rounded knife into the cheese, rock back and forth till the knife enters the cheese, then insert the squared knife in to hold the cheese open. The squared knife is tapered and gets wider further up. Here is a photo of the cheese scored and open in the center.
This photo shows the bottom half of the cheese, not yet scored, but open at the center.
As you can see, this particular cheese was aged well, with no defects of trapped gasses (holes) or off colors. You can also see the deposits of calcium in the cheese; that white ‘crunch’ that grana gets its name for. Yes, here they also call Parmigiano ‘grana’ – for its texture more than for respect for the other cheese; although, check this out as a rebuttal.
I’m working on one half at a time. The whole process took me about 20 minutes – I was having fun and took my time!
The pile of cheese that comes from one wheel of Parmigiano is amazing. If each wheel weighs 30 kilos, then each wedge must weigh about two and a half kilos – or – five and a half pounds.
Each wedge then probably costs (in the US) from seventy to ninety (+) dollars. But then again, Parmigiano in the US is way overcharged – and minimally used compared to the amounts used here.
At the end, the pieces are wrapped in plastic and ready to use later. I look forward to doing this next week, although the sous chef made a comment about how “rustico” my wedges were. His come out perfectly straight and in line, then again he has been doing this for a long, long time!
Go Eat Cheese