something that we did years ago when eleanor was 1 and samson was only 5 months, was visit a parmigiano-reggiano factory in parma, italy together. it’s something we talk about frequently ever since as well, since our 3 older kids request parmigiano-reggiano cheese with all their pastas, and something we have stocked in our fridge even if we’re running low on everything else. we knew we had to go again since we’d be in the area this past trip and also our kids would be at better ages to really take it all in.
and so, we went back and toured the cheese factory again during our day in parma and walked away with several pounds of cheese and even more new knowledge of the detailed process for each and every cheese wheel. such a fun experience we enjoyed together! truly, this kind of stuff is so fascinating to see first hand and something that makes the travel experience so much more valuable to me.
some photos from our morning at the factory….
after bringing in the milk twice a day, the process starts in this big room where they cook the milk, add some special enzymes, and gather the curds together after they all fall to the bottom of the vats.
each of those big round balls in the cloths weighs over 100 pounds!
learning the ins and outs with our guide, who was awesome at going back and forth to explain things to the kids more on their level and then to josh and me as well. i am always hesitant to do any sort of “tour” with a person when we have kids because the kids just don’t care about a million talking points and sometimes it’s a major miss. when josh found our tour guide company, he made sure to share that we had kids and request someone who would be able to help them out during the tour. if you can find that sort of person in advance, it really does make a big difference.
making a hairnet look cute. :)
each wheel of parmigiano-reggiano cheese is stamped with its “passport,” which looks like this and is also made of cheese! this qr code contains information on the cheese’s origin and history and is one of the ways you know it is official parmigiano-reggiano cheese, not a knock-off, which apparently there are many of these days. it was fun for my kids to try to find each cheese wheel’s “passport” as we toured the rest of the factory as well as on the cheeses being sold in the shop afterwards.
the markings placed around each wheel of cheese, which shares the exact date the cheese was made. we sampled a lot of cheeses towards the end and while i like mine more on the 12 month side, josh and the kids are fans of the more developed and aged cheeses from 24 months to 36 months old. i guess i have a kid palette? ;)
the cheeses soak in the salt brine bath for two full weeks, while each wheel gets individually flipped every day! we helped flip a few of the big cheese wheels for them that morning.
listening for hollow spots to make sure the cheese is aging properly. we had no idea what we were listening for, it all sounded the same to me to be honest but our guide told us that they train very extensively to have the sort of ear that can pick up on this sort of thing very well. the man that helped us listen for hollow spots in a new cheese wheel and a 36 month cheese wheel and was able to tell the difference between the sounds. it was impressive.
not really making the hairnet thing cute but hey can i get some love for those blue slippers over my booties because i’m rocking them, RIGHT!?
seriously just makes me so happy to see how detailed and intricate the process is for every single wheel of cheese. i love how small and involved this factory is with what they produce. i find these cheese wheels to be just beautiful.
we were able to go back and watch the cheese be sliced, vacuum-sealed into its packaging and placed with an official sticker! they even let our kids help with the sticker placing and my kids haven’t stopped talking about this part. it was very cool getting to see the entire thing from the start to the very finished product, sticker and all!
such a cool process and incredible place. gotta go get me some honey and cheese in the kitchen, now. ;)