‘Wheely’ big cheese event in Truro aims to set new record

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TRURO – What do you get when you mix cheese and crackers?

Cathy Horton, trained cheese ‘cracker’ at Truro Atlantic Superstore, and manager Greg Hatfield show the size of an 84-pound, Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel. On Saturday, the local store will join other Loblaws-owned locations across the country in an effort to set a new Guinness World record for the most Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels cracked simultaneously. SHERRY MARTELL – TRURO DAILY NEWS

For some it might be a nice light snack but Atlantic Superstore in Truro is aiming to set a new Guinness World Record by combining the two.

Store manger Greg Hatfield said his five professionally trained cheese ‘crackers’ will join 1,000 others across the country at precisely 1 p.m. today in an attempt to beat the previous record for the most Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels cracked simultaneously.

“It’s kind of interesting to see it cracked,” said Hatfield, standing near the deli section of the store at 46 Elm St., Truro.

The current world record sits at 426 wheels and was achieved in 2013. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard Italian cheese produced in the region of Parma, Italy, using the same recipe for almost 1,000 years. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been considered for centuries as the “king of cheese” with its amazing taste and crystalline texture. It is sold exclusively through the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium (or Consorzio).

The public is invited to watch as five 84-pound cheese wheels are opened by specially trained staff members Debbie Saunders, David Corkum, Cathy Horton Ann-Marie Dunn and James Taylor.

 “Obviously we want to break the record,” he said. He added following the official cracking people will be invited to sample this imported and unique cheese.

 

 

Cheesy facts:

What is Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is an extraordinary cheese with amazing aromas, taste and a unique texture. First produced by Benedictine and Cistercian monks 1,000 years ago, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard Italian cheese made with milk from grass or hay-fed cows. Each wheel is made using 600 litres of milk. The average wheel is about 8 to 24 centimetres high, 40 to 45 cm in diameter and weighs 84 pounds.

 

What’s the difference between other Parmigiano cheeses and Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is strictly bound to its place of origin. Both the production of milk and its transformation into cheese take place in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena or Bologna. Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled "Parmigiano-Reggiano."

The certification mark “Parmigiano-Reggiano Consorzio Tutela” is applied only to the wheels that pass inspection by the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium.

 

How is Parmigiano-Reggiano produced?

The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheesemakers follow strict guidelines and a set recipe in making the cheese. Each day, whole milk from that morning’s milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part-skim mixture. It is then pumped into copper vats, and starter whey and calf rennet is added. The mixture curdles for 10 to 12 minutes, following which the curd is broken up into small pieces the size of grains of rice. The temperature is carefully raised and the curd is left to settle for about an hour. Once settled, the compacted curd is gathered into a piece of muslin, divided in two and placed in molds to create the look of the wheel. After a day or two, the buckle surrounding the mold is released and a plastic belt imprinted with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant number and the month and year of production is placed around the cheese and reinforced.

 

Each wheel is then immersed in a brine bath where it sits for 20 to 25 days, and then transferred to aging rooms where they will sit on shelves for the next 12 months. The cheese is turned and the shelf underneath is cleaned every seven days until full maturation. At 12 months, the Consortium Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects each wheel to test for quality by tapping the perimeter at various points. Cheeses that pass the test are then heat branded with the Consortium’s logo. Those that don’t pass the test have all markings crossed out or removed, indicating to the consumer that the wheel is not top quality. The cheese is then returned to the aging room where it will continue to age for a minimum of two more months, or longer, depending on the facility’s production goals. Loblaw procures Parmigiano-Reggiano that is aged minimum 22-24 months.

 

What is the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium?

The “Consorzio Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano” is a consortium that includes all the cheese houses that produce Parmigiano-Reggiano. The Consortium is entrusted by law to regulate the production and trade of Parmigiano-Reggiano and employs its own monitoring agents who possess the same qualifications as public safety officers. The Consortium adheres to the specifications, outlined by the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), when inspecting each wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The Consortium is a non-profit organization.

 

What is Loblaw Companies Ltd. attempting to do?

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is attempting to break the current world record for the most wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cracked simultaneously. The current world record sits at 426 wheels and was achieved in 2013. More than 360 participating stores across British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces will take part in the attempt.

Organizations: Guinness World Record, Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium

Geographic location: Parma, Italy

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