Lot’s of us want to be something we aren’t. It’s good to have aspirations. For example, I wish to be thin. I also wish to be a cheese columnist or at very least a judge in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Is it really so much to ask? Aren’t you supposed to put your dreams out there in the universe to see what happens?
Speaking of dreamers, today’s cheese dreams of being Italian. And really, who doesn’t dream of being Italian? Italian’s are sexy, mysterious, and make great cheese. When I first met my husband, he was an adoptee with little birth family information. Sure, they said he was Japanese, but he not-so-secretly hoped he was Italian due to his thick beard and love for The Godfather. Parrano cheese also not-so-secretly hopes to be Italian. It’s technically a Gouda from Holland, but according to its website, URL http://www.parrano.com, it “thinks it’s Italian.” And frankly, I’m not sure what that actually means for a cheese.
Parrano is a newish cheese-first invented in the 1970’s after a “cheese master” from the ubiquitous Dutch Uniekaas cheese company went to Italy and fell in love with the cheese there. He decided to replicate the techniques used in Northern Italy for some of their hard cheeses, specifically parmigiano-reggiano, using the ingredients and techniques of a traditional dutch gouda recipe. The goal was to make a cheese as pliant as a young gouda and as flavourful as an aged parmesan. So it’s a kind of hybrid!
This cheese is, thus, another twist on the nostalgia cheese market. Parrano isn’t pretending to be an ancient cheese, it’s pretending to be Italian. To give it that final Italian feel, the Dutch Uniekaas company named the cheese Parrano after a small Umbrian village. The village of Parrano has absolutely no connection to the cheese, it just sounds cool to the Dutch.
The recipe for Parrano today has not changed since its creation. It is only made by the Uniekaas company, and is the only cheese sold by this name. It’s a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese made using milk from the Dutch Friesan-Holstein cows found in northern Holland. Parrano is made using the same technique as gouda, but instead of a gouda culture it utilizes the culture from a parmigiano-reggiano to start the cheese. Parrano is made in the factory- after it is formed it’s aged for 5 months before being wrapped in plastic and readied for sale.
Parrano was the 2006 gold medal winner of the World Championship Cheese Contest in Best of class, Gouda. I wonder if that category pissed the cheese off, or if it secretly tried to sneak into the parmigiano-reggiano judging but was stopped by the Parmesan consortium! Oh God, stop! It’s too early in the morning, I”m anthropomorphizing cheese, again. It was also first runner-up for the World Champion Cheese Title, so it’s a pretty magnificent cheese in its own right.
My slice of parrano is large and firm looking. The paste is a creamy yellow with pronounced and large eyes throughout-interesting. It looks like this cheese also wants to be Swiss! The rind is dark orange when you peel back the plastic cover. It’s a mild and frankly yummy smelling cheese. It’s quite understated in aroma, I have to get my nose right up to it to have a sniff.
Hmmmm. More Gouda, less parmigiano-reggiano to me. It’s both pliable and relatively firm, but it melts in your mouth-it’s not a crumbler. This is undoubtedly a gouda, despite its aspirations. Like all gouda, there’s that nice little hint of sweet butterscotch, which I adore. It’s not overly salty, but it does remind me a little of soya sauce for some reason. There’s no hint of uric acid or mould here, it’s just that yummy round cheese flavour. It’s a safe cheese, you could feed this to anyone with little fear. I can’t find any tyrosine crunch in this cheese, despite reading that it is supposedly there, it doesn’t seem to be aged enough for that to have happened. In all it’s a pretty chilled out and yummy little cheese.
OK, I don’t get the Italian wannabe thing with Parrano at all. I don’t taste it, and I don’t see it. You see this with teenagers sometimes. They adopt the trappings of another ethnicity because they think it’s cool. It just ends up looking weird. Be yourself, Parrano, there is no shame in being a Gouda!