Study of the Effect of Salt on Lipolysis in Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano (PR) cheese is a hard and brittle cheese with a long ripening time (minimum of 12 months) and a fat content of approximately 30% (w/w).(1) Each wheel weights on average 40 kg after ripening for 12 months. It is produced only in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Modena and part of the provinces of Bologna and Mantua. Parmigiano Reggiano is produced using raw semiskim high-quality milk, without any additive or preservative, so its only ingredients are milk and sodium chloride (NaCl), in conjunction with the natural fermented whey and calf rennet, necessary in the coagulation process. Parmigiano Reggiano is a PDO (protected designation of origin) cheese with distinctive characteristics and a strong link with the production area that is guaranteed by a system of standards and production process rules established by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano.(1)

PR cheese is salted in saturated brine. There are different salting systems; the most frequently used is the traditional one in which the cheese floats in the brine and the wheel has to be turned every day to guarantee the homogeneity of the process, and another is the full immersion in racks system in which the cheese is completely immersed in the brine. The brine time depends on the salting system, the size of the wheel, the temperature of the brine, and the desired characteristic of the final product. The salting process lasts for 21–24 days in the traditional system, while in the full immersion system, the cheese is salted for 18 days. On average, the PR NaCl content after 12 months is 1.40%, and after 24 months, the NaCl content is on average 1.60%(2) as declared by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano.(1)

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