Do Real Parmesan Cheese Substitutes Do the Job In the Kitchen?

Is Real Parmesan Cheese Needed in your Recipe?

Is real Parmesan cheese a necessary ingredient in your Recipe:  Or could  you substitute a “Grated Topping”  product and fill the bill. Lets take a look at some of the facts about  Italian Parmesan cheese and other options offered.

Where Does Real Parmesan Cheese Come From?

Wheels of Real Parmesan Cheese

Wheels of Real Parmesan Cheese

Carrying Real Parmesan Cheese in the Cheese Lovers Shop

Carrying Real Parmesan Cheese in the Cheese Lovers Shop

Well as I am sure you might suspect, Real Parmesan Cheese is called Parmigio-Reggiano and it comes from this region of Italy.  Reggiano Parmesan cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk.  As a matter of fact, the Italians are somewhat protective of its name, since it implies provenance and quality, analogous to the French honoring their  bubbling wine type -Champagne.

Is Real Parmigiana Cheese Expensive and Worth It?

Is real parmigiana cheese expensive? This cheese  is aged between 18 and 36 months which raises the cost.  Since this cheese only comes from one  geographical area, that makes the product more “dear” and has a consequence raises its price.   If we need a lot of real Parmesan cheese, we can find it priced as a “Wheel “:an excellent choice a large restaurant chain or maybe a cruise ship. Or we might want to buy it in smaller lots, in chunks, wedges or slices, paying by the lb. or kilogram.  A recent check of real Parmesan cheese prices indicate pricing between $9.00 to $19.00 per pound. A factory wheel (see photo insert), weighing about 80-100 kilos might cost as much a $2000 to $2500!

Real Parmesan Cheese is Commonly Served Grated

Grating Real Parmesan Cheese - Fresh in the Kitchen!

Grating Real Parmesan Cheese – Fresh in the Kitchen!

In order to offer smaller amounts, often Real Parmesan cheese is grated and offered in small plastic shake canisters with a common weight of 8 ounces or under. In this way it is not necessary to grate Parmesan cheese by keeping a larger piece in the kitchen when ready to sprinkle some on a pasta dish, vegetables or a pizza.


Do Some Manufacturers Trick You By Offering Ersatz “Real Parmesan Cheese”?

I recently quickly purchased what I thought might be a viable Parmesan cheese grated product  at my local grocery store. It came in  a green circular cylinder and looked like another hugely popular brand that I was familiar with. The Label said “GRATED TOPPING with Parmesan”.  But when I got back home and was ready to add it to my spaghetti, I read the label and this gave me some interesting insights.  By law the FDA mandates that all the ingredients in products need to be stated on the label. Usually they appear in order of diminishing weight, within the product; listing the most prevalent ingredient first.


List of Ingredients in My Near Real Parmesan Cheese “Grated Topping” Substitute

Upon closer inspection, this product label ingredients read: Dairy Whey, Food Starch, Casein, Natural Flavors, Water, Partly Hydrogenated Soy Bean Oil, Salt, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Parmesan Cheese (Made from Cow’s Milk, Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Cellulose Powder (to prevent caking)  Contains: Milk, Soy and Wheat

Brief definitions of ingredients found in this product are:

Whey:  A milk ingredient, usually removed in  Real Parmesan Cheese production.

Food Starch:  From say a Potato or a Beet, Corn or something similar?

Casein:  Protein that digests slowly. It is the ‘curds” in curds and whey.

Natural Flavors:  This “barn door’ category invites almost ANY flavor to be added.

Water:  Added to increase the weight, or maybe a natural occurrence in production.

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil:Is a trans fatty acid(TFA);know as an unhealthy food ingredient.

Salt: Good old Sodium Chloride. Taste enhancer for all foods. Good at increasing blood pressure.

Sodium Aluminum Phosphate:   Used very commonly as a stabilizer in food.  Is suspected, in some research studies, to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Lactic Acid: Sort of a milk sugar, usually found in small quantities in Real Parmesan Cheese. This feature often attracts Vegetarians.

Real Parmesan Cheese, (14th on the list of ingredients) – But this is the ingredient I sought in the product!

Cellulose Powder: A powdered plant fiber that is completely legal and is an FDA approved anti-clumping ingredient for pre-grated cheese.

Well this was quite a laundry list, considering I was only interested in Grated Parmesan cheese!  Unwittingly,  I got an extensive list of strange ingredients.  If  I add water to my canister and mix it up, I might find it useful for caulking the house, or maybe I can use it to fill cracks in the driveway!

How Little Real Parmesan Cheese Did I Get?

The ingredients, on the “nutrition facts” label on the shaker of  my ersatz cheese, showed me that the grated Parmesan Cheese in it shows actually as a weight percent. Salt equaled about 80mg  per serving or 3.6 grams per shaker. The “real Parmesan cheese” weight was less than that per serving.  The  total weight of all product in the shaker was 8 ounces; giving (28.3495231 grams/oz)  x (8 oz), or  a total of 226.8 grams of product. The percentage of Real Parmesan Cheese computes to (3.6 grams/226.8) grams. Meaning that Real Parmesan Cheese in this product was only 1.6 percent by weight!  It appears to me that this minuscule amount of Real Parmesan Cheese was added to the product; perhaps in order to allow the manufacturer to place the names “Parmesan Cheese” and “Grated Topping” together front and center on the label!.

Progression of Real Parmesan Cheese Making

How Close to the Real Thing do we get with a Substantially Modified Food Product?

Upon reflection,  I was  surprised at the “laundry list” of ingredients included in what I thought was a mostly grated Parmesan cheese.  The ingredient  I really wanted ended up next to last, and only surpassed cellulose powder, made of wood pulp!      Looks like it will always remain a good idea to scan the list of ingredients on the product even before making a quick purchase. I must say that I was not entirely satisfied with the taste of the laundry list cheese “grated topping” substitute product that I picked out. Next time, I will look more carefully and choose something that might equal at least 50% Real Parmesan Cheese; or I might pickup a wedge of real Parmesan cheese, and grate Parmesan cheese myself!

What are your thoughts on the label ingredients on this Parmesan Cheese? Have you ever experienced this same situation with a different product? Needless to say, we are being duped every day of our lives with sly marketing. We have to become sleuths ourselves to outsmart the marketers!





















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