"How is parmesan cheese made?" That's the question most folks ask after tasting the tangy, sweet, and nutty flavors in a bite of quality parmesan. Actually, it's probably the second question after "Is there any more of that parmesan left?"
It's amazing that parmesan is made with the same four ingredients – milk, salt, bacteria cultures, and rennet – like nearly every other cheese on the planet. And yet cheesemakers create cheeses as different as cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, swiss, and gorgonzola from these basic building blocks.
Here in the State of Cheese, every Wisconsinite can tell you how parmesan cheese is made – by world champions. Our cheesemakers know how to make cheese that is the tastiest, highest quality, most award-winning stuff on the planet. Of course, that's what you'd expect from a place where everybody dreams in cheese.
Take a spin through our website to learn more about award-winning Wisconsin parmesan cheese. Search our recipes for great ideas for cheese trays, game-day gatherings, and weeknight dinners. Or scroll down for the 411 on how parmesan cheese is made around the world – and right here in Wisconsin.
Cheesemakers have been making parmesan cheese – or Parmigiano-Reggiano as it's known in Italy – for nearly 9 centuries. How is parmesan cheese made today? Nearly the same as it's been made since day one.
Parmesan starts off as skimmed cow's milk to which bacteria is added -- thermophilic lactic acid bacteria, to be exact. After heating the mixture, rennet is added to curdle the milk. The curd is broken up into rice-sized pieces and left to settle for about an hour. It's then strained through muslin and placed into large cheese molds or wheels and immersed in a salt brine for about three weeks to give the parmesan its signature salty flavor. After brining, the wheels are stored in an aging room for 12 to 36 months or more, where they are cleaned and turned every 7 to 10 days. The cheese aging process gives parmesan its complex flavor and granular texture.
Parmesan cheese in the US and other parts of the world is made the same way as the cheese in Italy. However, the diet of the cows that produce the milk for parmesan may be different in various parts of the world, giving each version of parmesan cheeses a slightly different flavor.
Parmesan cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are essentially the same product. Parmigiano-Reggiano is cheese made in a specific region of Italy, while parmesan cheese is the name for a similar cheese made in other parts of the world.
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How is parmesan cheese made in Wisconsin? Simple. We let the professionals do their thing. We have more than 1,200 licensed cheesemakers in Wisconsin. Yes, you must have a license to make cheese in Wisconsin. Why on earth you'd let anyone make cheese without the proper knowledge, training, and credentials is beyond us.
But then again, Wisconsin takes cheese more seriously than anywhere on earth. It's why we make more of it – 600+ flavors, varieties, and styles and counting – than anybody else. And it's probably why we've won more awards for our cheese than any other state or country.
So next time you find yourself asking "How is parmesan cheese made?" – or "How is feta cheese made?" or "How can this cheese be so freaking good?" – a Wisconsin cheesemaker will be happy to provide the answers. And they'll likely throw in a chunk of award-winning Wisconsin parmesan to boot.
Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?
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In Wisconsin, we make more flavors, varieties, and styles of cheese than anywhere else in the world. We believe in tradition, producing everything from Italian classics, like parmesan and ricotta, to swiss cheese and cheddar varieties. But every Wisconsin cheesemaker is an innovator as well, which is why we have so many Wisconsin originals, like colby and muenster. Whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, potatoes au gratin, or a charcuterie board, Wisconsin cheese makes every dish and recipe tastier.