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May 13, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

How-To Buy Parmesan Cheese

Today’s tip is straight from the cheese drawer.

Parmesan cheese makes almost anything taste better, and because aged parmesan lasts for months in the fridge, I always keep a chunk of parm in the cheese drawer, waiting to cover any dish in salty, cheesy goodness.

I prefer to buy parmesan in chunks, rather than pre-shredded, for one important reason: it tastes better. There is an argument to be made about saving time, although for the extra minute it takes to freshly shred cheese, the taste is beyond compare.  Also, It’s impossible to know how long ago the pre-shredded stuff was shredded; the longer it sits, the less flavor it has.  And buying pre-shredded cheese is more expensive because the store needs to account for the extra step involved in shredding and packaging.  For all of these reasons, I recommend buying parmesan in chunks!

However, good parmesan cheese is pricey at upwards of $15/lb; well worth the expense, in my humble opinion, but there are a couple of tips I’d like to share about making the most of your purchase.

You’ll almost always find a rind on your parmesan chunk because good parmesan is sold in a giant wheel; sometimes you will see them on display at the grocery or cheese store.  Here is the tip: the rind is inedible, so the more rind that is attached to your chunk of parm, the less parm you’ll get out of your chunk.  In the photo below, you’ll notice that the chunk on the right has a rind running along the top and the side, whereas the chunk on the left only has a rind on the top.  When given a choice, I’d take the one on the left because there will be more cheese for eating and enjoying!

Tip number 2: the rind is inedible but not waste. When simmered in soup, the rind will add a lovely depth of flavor to your broth that is difficult to describe: it’s savory, salty, rich, often what some call “umami.”  The Italians have been saving parmesan rinds for ages, then using them to flavor their stocks and soups.  You can do the same by simply trimming the rind from your parmesan wedge and storing it in the freezer until the next time you make soup.  I always keep a bag of parmesan rinds in my freezer for this reason.  They’re especially good with tomato soup, any veggie soup, like minestrone, as well as any soup with beans, especially white beans.  Just stick a parm rind or two into your soup pot as it simmers away, then remove before serving.  The flavor is incredible, and you’ve use up every part of your cheese.  Enjoy ~  Image

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