The small town where the beloved Parmesan cheese began


Welcome to Clued In, a column that will give you an overview of some of the New York Times crossword clues and answers.

The word “Parma” was used in 65 New York Times crosswords. It has been identified in several different ways, including “the birthplace of Toscanini” and “the city of cheese”.

Parmigiano Reggiano, a beloved cheese that Americans call Parmesan or “parm,” has a strong fan base made up of cheese lovers around the world. The name of the hot plant is a nod to the place where cheese is made in an authentic and traditional way, in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna, according to the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium. Parma is home to less than 200,000 inhabitants and the University of Parma. The culinary city is also known as the birthplace of prosciutto di Parma, and it recently became the first Italian city to be named the UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy.

Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, which is part of a larger style of cheese called grana, is made from a blend of skimmed milk and whole milk. Cheese makers add rennet and whey to the mixture and heat it in a copper vat, an important tool in the process, said Lizzie Roller, director of merchandising for Murray’s Cheese. After this process is completed, the cheese is taken out and submerged in saline solution for almost a month. In the last step of the process, the cheese wheel is stored in a warehouse and aged for at least a year. The longer a wheel matures, the richer the taste and the higher the price.

What Americans call parm is probably not the real Parmigiano Reggiano. Kraft Heinz, for example, has been selling “parmesan” in a plastic bottle for decades. Although the product has become a staple food for some Americans, the company has received complaints and even faced legal action from consumers who claim the cheese product is not made entirely of cheese but rather. mixed with cellulose. In 2021, Kraft Heinz sold its Parmesan cheese product to Lactalis, a French dairy company.

While it’s common for foodies to view flavor or experience as a driving force behind the popularization of certain foods, cheese expert and author Tia Keenan pointed out that the popularity of many foods in the United States is determined. through logistics. Much of the popularity of Parmigiano Reggiano in the United States can be attributed to the waves of Italian immigrants settling in America. “Parmesan Reggiano has always been in the United States, as long as you’ve had Italian immigrants here,” Roller said.

The bulky, hard and aged qualities of cheese lend themselves to portability and a long shelf life, and therefore to travel. Parmigiano Reggiano has been imported in quantity “since the early days of the American colonial project,” Keenan said, calling the cheese a “strong ambassador”.

Besides maintaining a large fan base around the world, Parmigiano Reggiano is a financial superstar. The entry of cheese into the culinary world made possible banking and financial investment in Italy and helped finance the Renaissance, making it quite possibly “the first and only” cheese to serve as scaffolding for centuries. cultural and economic growth, Keenan said.

Cheese experts say Parmigiano Reggiano dates from around the 14th century, but it became more regulated in the 1900s. In 1901, the Reggio Emilia Chamber of Commerce proposed the creation of a union between cheese producers and cheese traders in order to authenticate the origin of the Parmigiano Reggiano that was to be exported. Today, more than 100 years later, the producers belong to the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, an organization that governs everything related to Parmigiano Reggiano. The consortium exactly controls the manufacture of anything sold under the Parmigiano Reggiano name, Roller said.

The role of the consortium is unwavering: it defends and protects the unique characteristics and origin of cheese. Dotted markings around Parmigiano Reggiano wheels were introduced in 1964. Since then all Parmigiano Reggiano wheels for sale must include specific markings on the bark as a sign of consortium approval.

“This clue is nice and over the top, that’s what we would want for such an answer for the Wednesday crossword puzzle.” And maybe you, the solver, have learned the origin of Parmesan, or the clue has just made you hungry. – Sam Ezersky, digital puzzle editor


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