The cheese world has seen its share of heavy hitters, but what makes a certain curd the king of cheese? Well, that depends who you’re talking to.
Mortality has ended a series of historic reigns, the longest ending at about 83 years. Multiply that by ten, and you get the reign of the King of Cheese — at least, if you’re talking about Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano Reggiano is only made in the Parma region of Italy, with both whole and skim milk from cows that only eat a certain type of regional hay — and these are only some of the rules. The process of making Parmigiano Reggiano is rigorous and its rules are strict, and this is why some call it the King of Cheese. Apparently, Parmigiano rules with an iron fist. Larry Olmsted, a Forbes contributor who has been to the Parma region of Italy several times says:
“I am an unabashed Parmigiano-Reggiano lover: it is delicious and addictive, and after one chunk you want another and another and another, and unlike many delicacies, it’s hardly an acquired taste…it does not need bread or crackers – in this case, the cheese truly does stand alone.”
Last month, NPR reported that the average American consumes pizza about 39 times a year — and, according to science, mozzarella is the king of pizza cheese. But is pizza enough to propel this springy, stretchy pasta filata cheese to the head of the overall cheese kingdom? Well, mozzarella also happens to be the most popular cheese in America, and has been for two years running. And who can blame us Americans, when mozzarella is so delectable on pizza, pressed into paninis, tossed into caprese salad…we could go on and on.
Since mozzarella is a fresh cheese, we recommend buying local if you can. If you’re in Italy, we recommend seeking out Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, the only DOP-protected variation of mozzarella. This cheese is licensed and protected to the Campania region, encompassing the cities of Naples and Salerno, among others. As it says in the name, this recipe is dependent on buffalo’s milk, which has twice the butterfat content of normal cow’s milk. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own mozzarella!
While doing research for this article, we realized we are rehashing a very, very old argument. According to Mental Floss, there was once a debate between European aristocrats as to which cheeses were kings of each respective nation. The lighthearted discussion came about while naming (actual) kings of each European nation after the violent French Revolution. Each country brought forth their finest, but it was good ol’ France who won the battle (again) in the end:
England’s Stilton, Switzerland’s Emmenthal, Holland’s Edam, and Italy’s Gorgonzola were each enjoyed, assessed, and discussed in turn. Talleyrand remained silent until his own messenger arrived, bearing Brie de Meaux. As one historian records, “The Brie rendered its cream to the knife. It was a feast, and no one further argued the point.” Without further ado, the Congress of Vienna declared Brie the Cheese of Kings and the King of Cheeses.