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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Edmund Tew – heard about him?

Edmund Tew
Edmund Tew

Edmundt Tew is an English soft cheese made by Australian immigrants to England to commemorate Brits that were expelled to Australia for varoious reasons. Poor Edmund Tew from Leicester was deported to Australia in 1829, only 16 years old. He was sentenced to seven years banishment. If he ever returned to England, I do not know.

Edmund Tew heard his sentence with the most perfect indifference

According to The Leicester Chronicle he was fairly indifferent to what was going on around him when the judge read out the sentence. And his crime justifying seven years in Australia? Seems like he had stolen a bread, some cheese and a beer from a gentleman in Leicester. I can like that, not the stealing of course, but the pairing. Not just some bread or some beer. He was not alone being deported for rather minor offences.

A cheese with an attitude

Like the youth the cheese is named after, Edmund Tew is a cheese with an attitude. Originally inspired by the French cheese Langres. But the Australian cheesemakers at Blackwoods Cheese Company in Kent have created their own touch. Raw milk of course, organic cow’s milk. Flavour is funky and farmy. A cheese with a feature. Not washed like the original, and no annatto either. Geotrichum on the other hand is very present. In addition there is a bit of white mould, Penicillium camemberti, contributing to the flavours.

To drink

Do as Edmund Tew did, have a beer. I suppose real ale was dominating at the time so I would choose a Bitter. That said, Langres comes Champagne-Ardenne so locally they fancy a glass of Champagne with their cheese. England is not that far behind regarding bobbles and Kent has its Gusbourne. Excellent choice.


Probably not available outside Britain.

Thanks to: Borough market, Blackwoods Cheese Company

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Grana Padano straordinario

grana padano
Grana Padano – a belittled cheese.

Just accept it, Grana Padano does not receive the accaims it deserves. As far as I know, this is Italy’s most bought cheese, and with a longer history than Parmigiano Reggiano. I frequently use Grana Padano when I need cheese for grating being it risotto or some paste dish. I do not know how it is in your market, but where I live the cheese is overpriced. Too close in appearance to Parmigiano Reggiano, so there is a gamle the consumers regard it as a Parmesan and it is priced accordingly. But still, somewhat cheaper, without that influencing my choice. It’s about variation. And it’s a good cheese.

Les mer
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Some cheeses from Savoie

I suppose there are more people who have been to the Savoie region for skiing than looking for cheese. In my opinion it should have been the other way round, even though skiing is fun. I prefer downhill to cross country, by the way.

Funny enough, I have never been to this region, apart from Annecy. A wonderful town worth visiting just ab hour’s drive or so from Genève. This is a lack I have decided to correct sooner rather than later.

Well known cheeses from Savoie

. There are some cheeses we all know, such as Beaufort. In my opinion this is the best alpine cheeses there is, especially the Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. It does not get any better than that. This cheese disappears very quickly from my fridge at least, if it ever reaches so far. Cheese, some dried ham, for instance the French Noir de Bigorre, country bread and a bottle of wine. Choose a mature cheese 18 to 24 months and you get the fine sweetness the alpine cheese is so famous for. Ask your favourite cheese monger.

If you think Beaufort is above your budget, Abondance might well be an alternative. matured from three to nine months and comes with a very chareacteristic concave side. So does Beaufort, but less characteristic than Abondance. Rind is very hard, but beneath there is a fruity semi hard cheese with hints of nuts.

On the soft side there is always reblochon, this mild washed rind cheese made at the mountain farms. It can also be industrial, so look for the “Fermier” sticker. Then you have a cheese that is made according to tradition often using wooden vats. This is the cheese used for the Tartiflette dish. If you have not had it yet, it is time to try. I am afraid I only have a Norwegian recipe, so you have as Google for help. It is a healthy dish, so perhps not a summer night, more for the darker and cooler autumn evenings.

Looking for something more rustic? Then Tommed e Savoie is an obvious choice. Farmstead, everyday cheese that originally was made from skimmed milk, because they used the milk fat for butter which was way more valuable. Today it is one of a few cheeses with protection that can be made from more than one type of milk, when it comes to fat content that is. Whole milk, skimmed milk or something in-between.

The not so known cheeses from Savoie?

I depends on how familiar you are with cheeses from the Savoie. But for most of us there are many cheeses from the region that we do not know. I am not going to go through all of them, but I will start with one that was among the first cheeses I bought after I had started OSTEPERLER.NO. It is called Tomme Crayeuse. Crayeuse means chalky. Exciting aromas, moist earth, straws and butter, but also with a hint of citrus. Creamy texture. You should try it.

Tomme Crayeuse med et glass hvitvin, f.eks. Chignin Vieilles Vignes fra Savoie. Foto: Gunnar Bløndal

Tome des Bauges is a pressed, semi hard cheese, which can be made from either whole milk or semi skimmed milk. So there is another one. Rind is thick, dark and rough, covered with mould often referred to as “cat hair”. The paste is ivory coloured with a few scattered holes. Comes in small wheels so it is possible to buy a complete wheel whithout being ruined. A very tasteful cheese that has been made in the Bauges valley for a long time.

Some washed rind cheeses

Abbaye de Tamié is as the name suggests a monastic cheese from the abbey L’abbaye de Notre-Dame de Tamié close to Albertville. From the Bauges area this as well. Wrapped in paper with an easily recognisable blue print with a Maltese cross as some kind of logo. Rind is almost saffron yellow while the paste is towards beige with a smooth and creamy texture. A few holes. Pleasant aroma and flavour. Delicate and fruity.

I have written about Manigodine before. Hails from the farms around the village of Manigod, not so far from Annecy. A fabulous cheese with a belt to keep the form. matured by Joseph Paccard. Manigodine is a woman from Manigid, so the name of the cheese is a tribute to all the female cheese makers in the area.

You might not have heard of Moelleux du Revard? Comes from a rather smakk dairy in the small town of Trévignin just outside Aix-les-Bains. Tasteful and well worth trying.

Many more cheeses

Galet de Chartreuse

There are many more cheeses, but I will leave you with a couple of chèvres from the area. Besace de Savoie has a somewhat crumbly texture with fragrances of herbs and mountain flowers. As it matures the taste gets more mellow.

Galet de la Chartreuse  is made by the Branche family byu the d’Aiguebelette lake. It is barrel shaped. A soft chèvre this, but through being dried it acquires a very hard texture. However crumbly it may be, in the mouth it becomes smooth as cream and soft butter. Nice saltiness and with a heavenly taste. With that name like that I suggest you try along a glass of Chartreuse V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge).

So, there we are with quite a lot of cheeses being left out. Not so good that lot? Not at all. It is just they are too numerous to mention them all. I suggest you go hunting cheese gems from Savoie, there is a lot to find.

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