Did you know that Parmigiano-Reggiano is our best-selling cheese here at Bi-Rite Market? There’s a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano out in the world, but here at Bi-Rite we’re on a mission to celebrate our Parmigiano-Reggiano in particular–and remind ourselves that not all Parmigiano-Reggiano is created equal.
For one thing, we know our cheesemaker’s name! Most of the wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano that we sell come from one farm and are made by Daniele Caldera. Daniele runs the farm, raises the cows, and also makes cheeses. The room where he makes cheese is right downstairs from the one in which he lives. It houses just three copper kettles and Daniele never makes more than six wheels of cheese a day. And (how fun is this?) –each day, Daniele bevels the wheels of cheese made the night before and mixes the cheese scraps with eggs for his breakfast. What a way to start the morning! Our wheels are aged for a minimum of twenty-four months, though usually they are closer to twenty-eight months. With a big wheel of this kind, a longer aging process allows for the development of deeper, more complex flavor.
Parmigiano-Reggiano’s status as our best-selling cheese allows us to buy it in whole wheels–these large beauties are 80 pounds!–and break them down at each store using the traditional Italian knives. Every week we look forward to Wednesday, when we crack new wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a magical moment as the cheese splits and is revealed, exposing it to air for the first time in twenty-four to twenty-eight months. When you’re buying whole wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese ages as long as it’s kept whole, and the quality of flavor from a freshly cut wheel is one of the most exciting things to a cheese-lover. In Daniele’s cheese this flavor is brothy and bright with notes of fruity pineapple, and the finish is long and deep.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a wonderful grating cheese and perfect with the arrival of spring’s first asparagus, but it’s a cheese too beautiful to be relegated solely to the role of an ingredient. Add a wedge to your next cheese plate and drizzle it with a little bit of aged balsamic for a decadent, hearty treat!