I don't know about you, but I always wondered if there was a good use for the rinds of Parmesan cheese. After a visit to a dairy where they make and age the cheese, I realized 'it is just cheese'. Big wheels of cheese, left to form a hard outer surface while exposed to air (sort of like some other things left hanging around my fridge).
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cow's milk. The whole milk of the morning milking is mixed with the naturally skimmed milk of the previous evening's milking. Boiled in copper-lined vats, the 1,100 litres of milk per vat, produce two cheeses weighing 45 kilograms each. The remaining whey in the vat was traditionally used to feed the pigs from which Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) was produced.
After brining (salt is the only additive to this product), the wheels are transferred to aging rooms for 12 to 36 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves where it is cleaned and turned manually every seven days. Buying a whole wheel of Parmesan could set you back roughly $1,000.
According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created in the course of the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production spread to the Parma and Modena regions. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already similar to the cheese produced today, which suggests its origins could be traced to far earlier.
Parmesan, Sausage and White Bean Stew
340 g (12 oz or 2 cups) dried lima beans
113 g (4 oz) pancetta or smoked bacon, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
794 g can (29 oz) Italian plum tomatoes
6 Italian sausages, 600 g (21 oz)
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
113 g (4 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, rinsed. Don't be pedantic, use more or less rinds, how much you have
455 g (1 lb) butternut squash, cubed
15 ml (1 tsp) dried sage
25 ml (11/2 tsp) dried rosemary
60 ml (1/4 cup) flour
750 ml (3 cups) beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Soak beans overnight in 1 L (4 cups) water.
2. Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F).
3. Drain the tomatoes, save the liquid and chop the tomatoes.
4. Heat the oil in a pan and brown the sausages, 2 minutes on each side.
5. Transfer sausages to the bottom of a Dutch oven
6. Layer Parmesan rinds, dried beans, squash, tomatoes and garlic cloves.
7. Sauté the vegetables and herbs in a medium saucepan, until just softened, about 6 minutes
8. Sprinkle with flour and mix well.
9. Add the reserved tomato liquid and broth.
10. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper.
11. Pour contents over the ingredients in the Dutch oven.
12. Cover and bake for 21/2 hours until beans are tender.
13. Slice sausage into pieces.
14. Carefully remove rinds and cut into small cubes and return to stew.
15. Serve with crusty bread and a little extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.
This stew goes really well with a robust red Italian wine.