Reg­gio Emilia

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Taste Tour Italia -

Fur­ther south­east along the Po Val­ley, to­wards the town of Reg­gio Emilia, a lazy sun­rise is in no hurry to burn off the earth’s misty blan­ket. When the fog fi­nally de­parts, it re­veals a land­scape so fe­cund that even tele­phone wires are over­grown with vines. At Parme­san dairy farm Fat­to­ria March­esini, six-foot haystacks, built high like for­bid­ding cas­tle walls, at­test to how easy it is to grow an­i­mal feed here. And that’s a good thing, since Parme­san can only be pro­duced in a land of plenty – it takes the milk of 100 cows to cre­ate just six wheels of the cheese. Maria-Luisa March­esini and her brother An­drea are over­see­ing the morn­ing’s pro­duc­tion. Milk heat­ing in a cop­per vat coats the room with a com­fort­ing scent like rice pud­ding. Soon frag­ments of curd clump to­gether to form a 100kg mega-wheel, which An­drea cra­dles into a linen cloth and cuts in two. The twin cheeses are set­tled into a brine bath for sev­eral days, then trans­ferred to a mat­u­ra­tion room, where they are watched over by CCTV. Such is their value that, in Emilia-Ro­magna, banks take Parme­san wheels as se­cu­rity de­posits. Af­ter a year, they’ll have hard­ened, gained the am­ber patina of age and be ready for ex­am­i­na­tion by in­spec­tors, who tap the cheese with acous­tic ham­mers, lis­ten­ing for struc­tural im­pu­ri­ties. ‘Our ears, our eyes, our noses, our hands – we have to use all our senses to check the Parme­san is de­vel­op­ing cor­rectly,’ ex­plains Maria-Luisa. ‘Grow­ing up on this farm, th­ese skills are in our DNA.’ MILE 38

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