Today, at every Whole Foods store in the world, a giant round of Parmigiano Reggiano was broken open at the exact same time. Here in California, that occurred at noon. In England, 8 p.m. Since I needed a little blog inspiration, I decided to head on over to the Sacramento store.
I actually got there an hour too early since I thought it was going to happen at 11. So I had some lunch, browsed the store, and tasted some cheese. I am thankful that the store is far away from me and therefore easy to avoid. Some women can't resist shoes, I can't resist good groceries. Sigh.
This particular cheese was two years old. Two years is the average time allowed for aging and some are held to seven. As they age they get grainier and darker in color. Here you can see the burned brand showing that it has passed inspection.
Finally a small crowd gathered. Here are the special knives used to open up the large rounds. There is a hooked blade for scoring the rind. There is an almond shaped blade (one edge sharp, the other not) for cutting down a bit deeper. Then there is a diamond blade (double edged) for spiking into the cheese.
The cheesemonger with the privilege was named Jeremy. Here he is doing the initial scoring with the hooked blade. He's getting through the thick rind.
He now switches to the almond blade to be able to pull the knife down along the score to a depth of about an inch.
He plunges a diamond blade into the top.
And a couple more along each side. He then stands back for about a minute. He says that the scoring and the placed knives help to relieve the pressure in the cheese...
because in the end, it kind of bursts open on its own. Like when you pull the strip on Pillsbury biscuits and the can pops open.
After the opening was finished, they gave out tastes of the cheese. They also had made an arugula salad to serve with a bit of Parm on top.
When buying Parmesan it is best to get a freshly cut piece off of a newly opened wheel. You are not supposed to buy too much since it shouldn't be kept for more than a couple of weeks. Also look for the thinnest rind possible. The rind is inedible, but can be thrown into soups for flavoring. With the price of the cheese, the thought is that you don't want to be spending money on useless rind.
According to the Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins, the best way to store a large chunk is to wrap it in a moistened cheesecloth (or even paper towel) and then in foil and place it in your veggie drawer.
I did buy more cheeses which I will post later this week.