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A friend asked me the other day, “what makes red cow Parmigiano different from traditional parmesan cheese?” This is a great question and one that many of our followers have likely asked themselves too. So without further or due, here are 10 reasons why you will always find this lip-smacking cheese in my fridge, as well as the world's best food halls like Harrods and Eataly.
The red cow (also called Vacca Rossa or La Razza Reggiana in Italian) is a heavy and majestic animal with a long strong trunk and head. Brought to Italy by the barbaric population in the 4th century A.D., the antique red cow breed was for centuries the most popular variety for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
The ingredients and production process have not changed since the 12th century when the Benedictine Monks first started to make the earliest-known Parmesan, from the milk of the red cow. High attention is given to the animal’s well-being, with red cows living to over 10-years of age.
In 1954 there were 136,695 red cows. As farmers began to replace them with more profitable black and white dairy cows in the 1950s, the number dropped to as low as 450 cows in 1981. Today, thanks to the grit and care of a group of local farmers, the number has increased to approximately 2,300 units.
Red cows yield far less milk than mainstream dairy cows and there are fewer red cows than dairy cows; making it a true connoisseur's cheese.
The milk contains high quantities of healthy animal butterfat and protein. The casein in particular allows for a longer ageing process than normal, creating delightfully crunchy white crystals which are free amino acids that benefit the digestion process. For this very reason, red cow parmesan must mature for at least 24 months; compared to the 12 months of traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Like traditional Parmigiano Reggiano, this cheese is ideal for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, as the lactose is transformed into lactic acid at the very beginning of the maturation process.
Red cows eat high-quality grass and hay (certified non GMO) from the meadows of the Reggiano Apennines which donate to the parmesan’s typical straw-yellow colour. Grazing at a high altitude means less pollution, better soil and more fresh grass in their diet. The regulation that governs the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese also certifies the exclusion of contaminants such as antibiotics and pesticides.
Red cow parmesan exasperates all the beneficial qualities of traditional Parmigiano cheese. The high quantity of amino acids and lactose-free properties make it easily digestible by toddlers and people with allergies. High contents of calcium make it ideal for growing teenagers and the elderly suffering from osteoporosis. And for all you World Cup enthusiasts out there, there are always numerous wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano following Italian athletes from all walks of life, from the football player to the cyclist. Just think that a portion of 50-60g of red cow parmesan has the same amount of protein as 100g of fish or meat, with a significant lower level of cholesterol.
Parmigiano Reggiano wheels are rated so highly that banks allow producers to use them as surety guarantees for bank loans to help their cash flow whilst the cheese matures. This applies to all traditional Parmigiano wheels.
With its exceptionally rich and creamy milk, Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse has a finely granular texture, and rich aroma of melted butter, fermented grass and straw. I personally love to eat it au naturel with a glass of wine while cooking dinner, but it's also delicious sliced into a salad, on a carpacccio, grated on your favourite plate of pasta, on a risotto or even as a dessert with a little raw honey or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
Want to taste for yourself? Shop Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse - Montanari & Gruzza
Sources: Consorzio Vacche Rosse Montanari e Gruzza Razza Reggiana Parmigiano Reggiano Independent UK
A native Italian-Austrian based in Hong Kong, Tamara Agusta is a branding expert, integrative nutrition fanatic, aspiring yogi, food nerd, and the General Manager at Profood Hong Kong. Beautiful designs make her happy, and she cannot live without avocados, airplanes, coffee (MOGI, of course) or Evernote. Follow her on Instagram.
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