Although many cheeses tout themselves as Parmesan, the true test of a quality Mountain Parm is in its craftsmanship, its premium ingredients and its signature nutty flavour and crystal texture.
How experts determine what cheese makes the grade all comes down to a metal hammer. Tapping wheels of cheese after they’ve aged for 12 months allows cheesemakers to listen for air pockets or cracks, which would render the cheese imperfect. Wheels identified as flawed are gouged across the rind to prevent them from being sold as Parmigiano Reggiano. Wheels of Mountain Parm are visited again at 24 months for an additional test with the hammer. The final test is a spot-check tasting by an expert panel, ensuring top quality.
Like many of the world’s finest foods, Parmigiano Reggiano follows strictly enforced Protected Designation of Origin criteria, a quality guarantee demonstrating that this is an authentic cheese made in a specific part of Northern Italy to a specified recipe. With Mountain Parm, the cheese’s terroir, or taste of place, comes from a variety of factors: the cows eat only grass or hay from the Apennine Mountains, known to help them produce extra rich, flavourful milk; the cheese is produced at elevations of at least 500 metres; and wheels are aged in the mountains for at least 12 months.
From milk to merchant, every step along the way guarantees customers a quality Mountain Parm.
- After the cows go down to rest in the evening, their rich, floral-tasting milk does, too: it is stored overnight in large vats to allow the fat to rise to the surface.
- The next morning, the rested milk is skimmed, poured into bell-shaped cauldrons and transformed into curd with the addition of rennet and fermented whey.
- A specialty tool called a spina breaks the curd into fine granules, which are then cooked at up to 55˚C.
The curds are then rested, cut, wrapped and moulded by an expert cheesemaker.
- A saltwater bath kickstarts the maturation process, then the cheese takes a well-deserved rest. Most Parmigiano Reggiano matures for 18 to 24 months, but our Mountain Parm ages for 30 months to produce its signature flavour and texture.
- A colour-coded system of seals indicates the cheese’s age: red signifies a Parmigiano Reggiano that has matured for at least 18 months, silver identifies a 22-month-or-older cheese, and gold is reserved for cheeses matured over 30 months.