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Kosher Parmesan: A Passion

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Parmesan crisp

If you had asked me in my twenties what I would be doing thirty years from now, never in a million years would “cheese production” have crossed my mind. My story stems from a passion for travel and a love of good food; I left the finance world to pursue my dreams, and along the way, I found one of my favorite foods: Parmesan cheese.

A few years ago, I had the chance to taste the most incredible aged Parmesan from Argentina. It was Cholov Yisroel, aged 2 years, and made by a second generation Italian family who had immigrated to Argentina. I fell in love with the cheese and knew I had to find a way to bring this incredible flavor to my friends and family back home. But sadly, this foray into importing did not last long. A year later, heavy import duties, shortages of milk, and currency fluctuations made it impossible for us to continue.

My passion for Parmesan didn’t end in Argentina. I was convinced that there had to be a way to bring kosher Parmesan to the US. We looked at importing Parmesan from Italy directly. I found one cheese of a particularly incredible quality—it was authentic Parmesan Reggiano. There was one problem: import duties and the unfavorable dollar- Euro at the time meant that importing cheese would be like importing pure gold. I don’t have a problem spending money on food products, but even I, a gourmet food lover, have limits. The Italian adventure was cut short before even getting off the ground. However, my fascination for great aged Parmesan continued.

Seeing that I was having little luck in importing cheese from abroad, I discovered a great solution.  I was sure that we could make great Parmesan right here in the US. And I’m so happy we decided to try. I beamed with pride, when Anderson International Food’s inhouse rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Vogel, made our first production in Wisconsin. No more import duties, no more milk shortages. Here, we could shake hands with the dairy farmer, visit the farms, and make sure that we used only the very best quality milk for our cheese. I’ve learned from experience that making kosher Cholov Yisroel cheese is a very personal venture. We’ve created strong relationships with farmers across the country, and I feel so lucky to call many of these new business partners my friends.

After 12 months, our first production of cheese was ready to be cut and packaged.

Brigitte' Spaghetti Squash

We agreed to take our first wheels and chunk them. (We also added shredded and grated Parmesan.) I am partial to grating my own Parmesan; I always have a grater on hand and a chunk of Parmesan in my fridge.

I am so excited that Parmesan has become one of our staple products. My friends know how much I’ve learned about cheese over the past few years, especially Parmesan, so I am often asked to share my favorite serving suggestions.

Here are a few questions that I’m often asked:

How do you eat Parmesan?

A good Parmesan will add a dimension of flavor to any pizza, steamed or grilled vegetables, casseroles or salads. Sometimes I like to use Parmesan instead of salt. I cannot think of a dish that cannot be enhanced with Parmesan, except maybe fish, though I am sure my Italian friends would disagree with me. I am still discovering the versatility of this cheese.

Can Parmesan be added to a cheese platter or cheese board?

Yes! I use small chunks of Parmesan, especially when it is 12 months old and it is still fairly easy to cut into small bites. With a little jam and your favorite wine, you have an instant party.

Does Parmesan make a good snack – and is it healthy?

Absolutely! Sometimes when I am famished, I will slice an apple or a pear and eat it with a few pieces of Parmesan. With Parmesan, it is easy for me to show some restraint. The cheese has such intense flavor, a small piece is very satisfying. Unlike Brie which I love straight out of the fridge, since one bite can easily lead to half the wheel disappearing. Not a good thing!

Here are two of my favorite recipes with Parmesan:

Parmesan Crisps

Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Late Spring 2013) - subscribe now.