About a month ago we were fortunate to have an in-store signing with former New York Giant, Super Bowl champ, Shaun O’Hara. While he was visiting the store we spoke for a few minutes and he expressed to me that his all time favorite cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano–he specifically enjoys it chunked and drizzled with honey. After chatting with him I started thinking about this king of cheeses and how I haven’t blogged on it at all. I decided to dedicate this blog to my favorite splurge: Vacche Rosse, Parmigiano Reggiano (aka: Red Cow Parmigiano).
A long time ago, up until the post WWII era, there existed a magnificent breed of cows in the province of Reggio Emilia. This beautiful beast was the original breed responsible for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, but by the late 1980’s only a few of these cows were left, leaving them close to extinction. Unusually colored this cow had a magnificent pelt of lightly burnt butter with caramel tones. Now, not all Parmigianos are created equal and thankfully perhaps Italians remembered the history of red cows and the tales (or tails) of the past–if not from their own personal experiences.
They hungered for a Parmigiano that was aged longer, yet was creamier than that “King of All Aged Cheeses” that had become so readily available to us. What they realized was this “red cow” produced a milk with superb properties: rich in protein, calcium and phosphorous. It was known to possess better cheese making qualities than the typical black and white cows who outnumbered them in making this popular cheese. Its milk coagulated faster, the curd was more consistent and elastic, the whey was clearer and the cream separated much easier.
The people of Reggio-Emilia were inspired to bring back a small herd of about 3,000 of these udderly magnificent animals and in extremely limited quantities they are producing Vacche Rosse. Compared to the 12-18 month aging for a regular Parmigiano, this complex cheese is aged for a minimum of 24 months. Although aged longer it is richer in flavor and creamier in texture.
As nutty, fruity, and grassy notes linger on my palate, I find myself simply taking chunks of this divine cheese and drizzling a thick balsamic glaze over it while leisurely sipping from my glass of 2008 Belguardo Serrato. If I am feeling in the mood for a lil sweet and salty I just grab lavender honey and start dipping and nibbling away. All I have to say is moooove over black and whites because the red cow is back–hopefully here to stay!