parmigiano reggiano in north america
In the last few years, the quality of parmigiano reggiano that I've bought in Toronto, at roughly the same price point of $40/kg ($18/lb), has varied widely. Most disappointing is when the cheese is moist and lacking in the that traditional sharp nutty flavour, often being actually bitter. A perfect example was the Tre Stelle brand I bought this afternoon, after the fresh cut pieces were all sold out. I typically avoid Tre Stelle and other pre-packaged brands for this reason.
I wonder if North America is not being supplied with under-aged parmigiano reggiano. Any takers for this theory?
Is it really genuine DOP parmigiano reggiano? Looking at the Tre Stella website I can't tell. I see lots of "imported" parm that turns out to have been made in Argentina.
It should say how long it's been aged on the packaging. I buy the DOP parmigiano reggiano stravecchio, aged three years, at Costco.
All Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels must be inspected and graded by an official Consortium. That doesn't happen until a wheel has aged for 12 months. If it passes muster, it is stamped and can be sold as P-R. However, P-R designated for export is not released until it is at least 18 months old. I have not seen any evidence that this rule has been relaxed in the wake of the earthquake that sunshine842 speaks of. I don't think that the entire stock of P-R then aging in storage facilities was destroyed by the earthquake, just part of it.
I can't say anything about Tre Stelle, which I'm not familiar with. It's possible that it's not authentic P-R, in which case it should not carry the P-R name. It's also possible that it was mishandled somewhere along the line, either during transport or by the distributor or store.
Not to cast aspersions on your retailer, but.... did your rind have the parmigiano reggiano imprint? I ask because I have seen retailers market other (inferior) cheeses as PR.
Also, have seen retailers market 18 month as 24 month. This, I don't think, is as big an issue as the first.
The third solution may be that you bought a pre-wrapped cryo cheese, and it had lost much of it's allure thus treated.
It looks like TreStella is the real deal, but is a cut and vac-pack marketed product. If it is at all possible, you should try and find a shop that will cut (break) the pieces to order or that only breaks up enough to last for a couple of days.
If you are at a store that does actually cut their own cheese, then ask them for a piece. Almost no good shop will actually run out of good DOP Parm.
I've also noted that cheeses of comparable quality have gone up in price and that many shops are getting less aged product to keep their price stable.