Parmigiano Reggiano da Latte di Sola Bruna Italiana

parmigiano reggiano
Parmigiano Reggiano da Latte di sola Bruna from the Valserena farm

Isn’t Parmigiano Reggiano exactly that, or Parmesan if you like? Well, there is Mozzarella di Bufala and then there is Mozzarella from cow’s milk. The original is from Buffalo’s milk. And the same applies to Parmigiano Reggiano. Well, any Parmigiano Reggiano is made from cow’s milk, but as this cheese has become increasingly popular around the world, the need for more milk has exploded and with that the introduction of a high yielding cow. Hence the Holstein making most of the milk for today’s Parmigiano Reggiano. But it’s not the original, that’s the red, white and brown cows respectively. They yield less milk, but milk that is more suited for cheese making. Then there is this thing about sticking to what’s original. Some don’t bother, other’s think that’s important. I belong to the latter.

I do not know how much more milk a Holstein makes a day compared to the originals, but I assume the difference is considerable. And that difference probably means money – and money talks. If you think breed is breed, milk is milk, feeding is feeding, pasture is pasture and even dairy is dairy, well then I thing you are wrong. That’s why the breed thing is so important. It’s about history, culture and not least keeping to the original.

Parmigiano Reggiano of milk from solely brown cows

The brown cow, or Bruna Italiana is an old cow when it comes to making Parmigiano Reggiano. Probably not one of the originals but it has an ideal protein/fat ratio for cheese making. The Bruna Italiana is originally a Brown Swiss that was long ago brought across the alps to the plains of the Po river and has over time become Bruna Italiana as it is known by now – in Italy.

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Parmigiano Reggiano di Latte da sola Bruna 24 mnd

Bruna Italiana is not an extinction threatened breed

Unlike Vacche Rosse and Bianca Modenese where they keep working to rebuild herds, the brown cow is quite widespread most of all because of the cheese making qualities of the milk. Why then is Bruna Italiana so special? Because as I just said of the qualities of the milk and because they are not all that many using this breed for making Parmigiano Reggiano.

Some cheesemakers use some milk, often in blends with other breeds, but the farm Valserena use solely Bruna Italiana (or Vacca Bruna if you like) and have done so since the farm was founded back i 1879. They had a plan and imported the animals from Switzerland. Since then they have worked steadily with farming, cheese making, breeding and not least establish Parmigiano Reggiano with milk from brown cow as a quality brand. Which was crowned in 2005 when the Disolabruna® Consortium was etablished. With the PDO together they represent both protection and recognition.

Valserena – the farm

A farm housing 260 milking cows in addition to calves and pigs. The milk from these 260 milking cows is enough to make 14 cheeses every day. They also grow wheat, corn and sugar beets. The pigs are fed on whey and corn.

Burns night

January 25th, that’s the date. Or that week rather, for practical reasons. Burns night is not one day like 17th of May, but an evening during that week where people gather to celebrate this significant Scottish poet. Robert Burns. You’ve heard the name.

Robert Burns Credit: Yale Center for British Art

So what’s he so famous for? Poems, but most of all Auld Lang Syne. During the celebrations they meet to read poems, sing songs, eat haggis and other Scottish delicacies such as cheese. And drinking whisky. That’s what they do on Burns night.

My Burns night

In week today I have planned to have my burns night celebration during my cheese tasting streaming (which will be in Norwegian by the way). Not so much singing en poetry reading. Scottish cheese and whisky on the other hand, that’s more like it. The thing is there are hardly any cheese from Scotland in this country, apart from Isle of Mull. A wonderful cheese, no doubt but it does not alone make any diversity.

PS. Tonight it’s all about Comté. Perhaps with a glass of single malt Scotch at least?

Pont l’Évêque from Normandy

Pont l'Évêque
Pont l’Évêque Hossaye

Pont l’Évêque has a lot in common with Livarot, but I find it at times more approachable than the latter. Apart from the fact it is square and difficult to spell Pont l’Évêque it appears milder and more elegant than its perhaps more famous relative – ranking higher as well, colonel as it is. A very pleasing cheese Pont l’Évêque.

Cheese with a history

Pont l’Évêque is known as far back as the 12th century, even under different names, such as d’Angelot according to Cheese.com. Its present square look was acquired during the 1800s mostly to distinguish from just the Livarot. As you probably notice from the picture above it is a very appealing cheese, very clean and delicate rind, but don’t be fooled by that. Rightly so, no wolf in sheep’s clothing, but it is a washed rind cheese and it does come with a personality of its own. Usually packed in a wooden box, not being very important other than for safe transport.

Pont l’Évêque – a town and a county

Pont l’Évêque is also a town and a county situated in the department of calvados, a short distance inland from the coast where the more famous beach town of Deauville right south of where the river Seine hits the ocean or the English channel if you like. A wonderful area to visit by the way, full of history, both recent and more distant. Nothing like the mediterranean, and expect a shower or two.

To drink

What to drink with a cheese from an area full of apples? Calvados obviously, the apple brandy. if you find it somewhat on the strong side, there is cider. Still or sparkling, but I recommend dry. Enjoy.

Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese

Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese
Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese

Parmigiano Reggiano vacca bianca modenese is a rare visitor outside Italy, while the “same” cheese from vacche rosse is more common, and that is a good thing. It is available, more expensive and better. If that means consumers are buying it is another thing, perhaps most think Parmesan is Parmesan.

What’s so special with Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese?

Well, it’s one of the original breeds giving rather small amounts of milk, but good milk well suited for cheese making. The vacca bianca originates as a cross breed from vacche rosse which is a much older breed and the other original “supplier” of milk for Parmigiano Reggiano.

Basically there were three factors making the vacca bianca modenes favourable. In this context the milk of course, but also from a meat perspective, renowned for its quality. Finally the breed used to be a very good “workhorse”. Where we earlier used horses and today tractors, the cow did the job. And we can still experience this in countries less mechanised that our western world.

However, with a Parmigiano Reggiano world market emerging, the demand for more milk grew, as did the need for more efficient milking. Vacce bianca modenese is not well suited for mechanical milking. While there were about 230 000 beasts during the 50’s it had fallen to a mere 800 at the start of the new millennium. That’s dramatic. Not that many more today, it must be admitted, but at least the development goes in the right direction. It takes a while to restructure a whole breed in a good way.

The Rosola dairy in Zocca

Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese
Parmesan of milk from white cow, matured for 29 months.

The Rosola dairy in Zocca in the Modena province, an hours drive from Bologna, was the first dairy to transition to making Parmigiano Reggiano from vacca bianca modenese milk. Since then it seems like three other dairies have joined the movement. A vey limited production.

Is Vacca Bianca Modenese a very old breed?

No, it is not. As said above it originates from vacche rosse. The cheese is much older. Remember though, the Parmigiano Reggiano hjas not always been world famous like today. Originally it was very much an Italian household cheese for everyday use like some other varieties. Is there an Italian recipe without grated hard cheese of some sort? Then the Italian emigration started, and the Italians want thing just like home, so they missed their cheese. And from there a world market emerged demanding larges production units, being it milk production or cheese making.

That’s where the Holsteins come in. It is not very well customised for the assignment, though. The milk is not well suited for cheese making, the breed does not thrive under the Italian climatic conditions with a very short life span. Have not heard anything about the meat quality, but that does not have to be negative.

Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese
A proper tool is important

Three or four dairies?

I believed there were four, but it seems like it is only three dairies making cheese from vacca bianca modenese milk and as it is, they’re all in the Modena province. The last two mentioned below have joined the Slow Food presidium to save the breed.

Consorzio Valorizzazione Prodotti Razza Bianca Modenese i Valpadana Serramazzoni, Modena

Caseificio Rosola i Zocca, Modena

Caseificio Santa Rita i Serramazzoni, Modena

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