“After one year, an independent expert (battitore) evaluates each wheel. Tapping each one with a special hammer, the tester listens for tones indicating whether the cheese has aged in the way it should. As another quality test, thin probes may also be inserted and sniffed,” she said.
‘Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela’
The certification mark is only applied to the wheels that pass inspection. This is an oval mark that reads ‘Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela’ and includes the year of production.
During the certification branding, the wheels are divided into two categories: Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmigiano Reggiano Mezzano.
Parmigiano Reggiano wheels are suitable for longer ageing (24 months plus) as they match the appearance, texture and flavor of a true Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Sometimes, at the request of the producer, 18 month wheels can be inspected again for an additional certification.
A guarantee of superior quality
If the wheels meet certain higher standards, the mark Extra or Export is branded on the side of the wheel to provide an additional guarantee of the superior quality of that particular wheel.
The second category, Parmigiano Reggiano Mezzano, is for cheese wheels that are meant to be eaten young, (soon after the certification banding at 12 months) - these are marked with parallel grooves around the circumference of the wheel.
Igino Morini, Parmigiano Reggiano, told DairyReporter inspectors looks for defects that have holes because any fermentation that is not lactic produces gas.
“If you hear even sounds when tapping the cheese with a hammer, and feel a vibration using your hand it means the inside is compact with no cavities. The people that do the quality control work in pairs. They can check up to 3,000 wheels in one day,” he added.
Read Part I: 'Hard cheese made easy': Behind the scenes of a Parmesan cheese factory here .