Parmesan’s origins lie in Italy, but it is a hard seasoning cheese produced in many parts of the world. The aging process lasts from six months to four years. Younger cheeses are best for shredding while the older varieties are recommended for grating.
The best and original parmesan cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano. Its generic term is “grana,” which identifies it as a grain cheese produced in the Parma and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy. Today, only a few surrounding areas also produce this fine cheese. All other versions are identified only as parmesan.
In Argentina, this cheese is produced as Parmesano and in Brazil it is called Parmezao.
Parmigiano Reggiano will bear a stamp on the rind.
Never purchase any fresh parmesan wedge that does not have a rind. A cheese that has been too long on the shelf is whiter in color and will most certainly be too hard.
Commercially ground parmesan in canisters remains an economical and convenient option, but there is a significant difference in flavor. Most brands have a very long shelf life.
Fresh parmesan can be kept for about four weeks if refrigerated. Wrap first in a layer of wax paper and then in foil. Each time you use it, be sure to rewrap in a clean sheet of wax paper.
Parmesan can be frozen whole or shaved, but may have some flavor deterioration.
Ground, dried parmesan does not need to be refrigerated until opened, unless it was purchased in the dairy section at the store. Once the seal is removed, flavor will remain at its best with refrigeration.
- In grated form, parmesan is the topping of choice for every type of occasion from casual (pizza) to elegant (mushroom risotto). It can also become the perfect appetizer or dessert cheese as it is a delicious complement to apples, pears, and figs.
- Shred or grate a little into soups, add to a baked potato, or melt on top of a hot buttered slice of French bread.
- Add to bread crumbs for dressings or meatloaf.
- Always shave or grate just what you need and, preferably, just before serving or adding to a recipe.