Parmesan cheese reviews

You don't have to go to a deli to get good parmesan.
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  • Updated:28 Jun 2007

04.Jargon busters and meet the experts

Jargon buster

  • Aging. Often referred to as curing, maturing or ripening, aging is the process of holding cheeses in controlled environments to allow flavour development and change in texture. These changes are due to the activity of natural milk enzymes and the development of micro-organisms.
  • Bitter. An unpleasant, biting flavour — usually an aftertaste. A bitter aftertaste is sometimes associated with variations in manufacturing and curing or aging procedures.
  • Close. A word used to describe how compact the body of a cheese is. Parmesan cheese should be ‘close’ rather than ‘open’.
  • Culture (starter). Starter cultures speed and control the process of curdling milk during cheesemaking, in part by converting lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid, which over time results in the formation of white calcium lactate crystals (see Grainy, below). Starter cultures also lend unique flavour characteristics to the cheese. The starter for Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano is a natural culture of lactic ferments from the whey produced by the initial cheese-making process.
  • Eyes. The technical name for holes formed in cheese after fermentation. Swiss cheeses are best known for their large eyes. Eyes in parmesan aren’t desirable.
  • Grainy. A descriptive term for the granular texture created by calcium lactate crystals, which are the product of long aging. It’s desirable in parmesan, though not to the point of grittiness, which indicates excessive numbers of these crystals.
  • Lipolytic. A word used to describe the flavour created by the enzyme lipase releasing fatty acids from butterfat in the process of ‘controlled rancidity’. The desired lipolytic flavour may be mild or sharp depending on the cheese age. Some cheeses, such as Romano, gain much of their flavour from fatty acids. Others, such as cheddar, aren’t supposed to have flavours caused by fatty acids in high concentrations. Undesired lipolytic flavours produced from unwanted micro-organisms or from using old milk are referred to as ‘rancidity’.
  • Rind. The outside of a cheese. The rind acts as a barrier between the cheese and the outside environment, while sometimes imparting a flavour of its own. Natural rind is one that develops naturally on the cheese exterior through drying while ripening, without the aid of ripening agents or washing. Most semi-firm or hard cheeses have natural rinds, which may be thin like that of cheddar or thick like that of parmesan.
  • Whey. The thin, watery part of milk that separates from the coagulated curds during the first step of the cheesemaking process. It contains most of the milk sugar or lactose found in milk.

Meet the experts

  • Russell Smith – Specialty Cheese Consultant with Flavours Culinary Academy, has judged in cheese competitions nationally.
  • Neil Willman – Director of Cheese Expertise, conducts cheese courses and training programs across Australia, and has judged cheese and other dairy products at competitions nationally and internationally.
  • Don Sandman – Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority Quality Assurance Manager, is a dairy technologist and has judged in many cheese and dairy shows.
  • Sophie Classon – cheese expert and consultant to the industry, runs cheese seminars and workshops for Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder Cheese Room in Melbourne.
  • Roberta Muir – Manager of Sydney Seafood School, has a Master’s degree in gastronomy and is a trained judge of both olive oil and cheese.
  • Joanna Saville – food journalist and food TV presenter/producer, is a trained judge of both olive oil and cheese.

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