Parmigiano Reggiano, also known as the parmesan sold in the USA, is indeed the king of all the cheese. It’s only real Parmigiano Reggiano if it’s made in the Italian regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna following strict guidelines set by the Consortium for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
What are the strict guidelines?
  1. The milk must come only from grass-fed cows on the four aforementioned lands.
  2. Only three ingredients must be used: salt, cow’s milk, and calf rennet (an enzyme from the cow’s intestines that helps to form curds). Nothing else allowed!
  3. Each cheese wheel must bear the ‘marks of origin’ or a seal stencil that tells you when it was produced and the cheese factory registration number.
  4. The dotted wording of ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ is embossed all over the cheese wheel.
  5. The cheese must be aged for at least 12 months; cheese lovers prefer 24 or 36 months-aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
  6. Real Parmigiano Reggiano can be made in only one sized wheel which weighs 37 kg. This ensures consistency.
  7. Finally, only the wheels that pass the quality inspection test are branded with the hot-iron mark. It’s slightly oval and has the words ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ on it. The wheels that don’t pass the quality test, have all their previous markings scraped off before selling.
So, whatever ‘parmesan’ cheese you get in the supermarket, is some cheese, but definitely not Parmigiano Reggiano. Real Parmigiano Reggiano is made with strict rules, countless hands, and over a long period!