Decoding a Parmesan rind
March 25, 2010
I just wanted to write about parmesan rinds, briefly. I saw Alton Brown call one out on Iron Chef a while ago, and so wanted to understand more about the writing that goes on them.
I was only able to find out what some parts mean. In the photo above, you can see a few elements:
“Parmigiano-Reggiano” written along the rind over and over again, vertically. I assume this is just to say that this is really a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. This type of identification is really, really important when it comes to European foods, which I talk about below.
The number 2566, which apparently refers to which dairy these cheese came from (see this page)
A big stamp that says “Parmigiano” and “Reggiano” - I can’t see what’s in the middle but will investigate at some point
The date of… production? In this case it’s “Gen 08”, which if I understand Italian correctly is January of 2008
Some other stamps that I will investigate further
More about the “Parmigiano” identification: In the EU with regard to food, where something comes from seems to be as important as what it is, if you see what I mean. For example, Parmigiano is only made in Parma. If you use all the same ingredients and processes, but manufacture it somewhere else, it’s not Parmigiano. (“Parmesan” is just the French name, by the way, I don’t think it’s any different).
Check out the Wikipedia article for more details, but lots of products are trademark-protected this way, even if the place isn’t mentioned directly in the name. This includes ouzo (which must be produced in Greece or Cyprus), and Stilton cheese (which must be produced in a few select English counties). Obviously this is also very important for French wines. We have this in the US as well; think of Vidalia onions or Florida orange juice, though I can’t think of any examples of this type of trademark in the US where the place isn’t actually part of the trademarked name.
In general, this regime seems to me to be a combination of (a) legitimate understanding that where a food is produced matters, because of for example the terroir, and (b) protectionism.
This Wikipedia article on “Parmesan cheese”, by the way, has an interesting breakdown of how Parmesan you buy on the store shelves is significantly different, even in process, from actual Parmesan.
The rinds are apparently pretty good in stock, too. One day I will start saving all my vegetable scraps, chicken bones, parmesan rinds, etc. and actually make some stock. I’ve heard this will bring my soups etc. up to a whole new level.