Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is one of Italy's great cheeses, but whatever you do don't say 'parmesan cheese'.
A recent law has asserted that 'parmesan cheese' is not parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the name cannot be used to fool the customer into thinking the cheese they are buying is the real thing.
Above all, look for the distinctive logo of the Consorzio Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano to be sure, both on the cheese itself or on the plastic packet.
2,700,000 tons of 'Parmigiano-Reggiano' are sold every year and are produced in 650 small factories.
Each produces no more than 5 or 6 tubs or 'forms' of cheese every day and this is the secret to its quality.
For some reason large scale manufacturing does not lead to the same quality of output and the methods used have not changed much from a document still in existence from the 13th century.
The areas of production include the provinces of Bologna (left bank of the river Reno), Mantova (right bank of the river Po), Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia.
It is a hard cooked cheese of semi-skimmed cows milk. The rules of production are rigorously kept with the milk first being placed in large vats made from iron where it settles over night.
Parmigiano Reggiano is made from the best milk, from the fire, and from the ability of the "cheese masters" experienced hands and to make 1 kg of Parmigiano Reggiano you need 16 liters of the best milk and a minimum of 12 months careful curing.
The cream is then removed the following morning and used for butter. Coagulation is achieved with the rennet of veal.
After several days it is salted, then left for a further 20-30 days. The maturing period stretches to at least one year but two is not uncommon.
Before arriving at market the cheese is inspected using a small hammer which knocks the round. The vibrations reveal whether the inner cheese is good. Only then can the famous trade mark be applied.