How can I tell when I’ve finished the usable part of a wedge of parmesan cheese?
If you buy parmesan in a wedge and use a microplane or grater to shred it for use in the kitchen, you’ve probably wondered what to do when you get near the edge of the wedge.
A wedge of parmesan cheese, which you can find packaged in plastic in most supermarket delis, is not meant to be completely used up in the way you’d completely finish off a block of cheddar. The exterior rind of the cheese (usually a roundish outer side of a triangle-shaped piece) is a natural form of packaging that remains from a larger wheel of cheese that the wedge was cut from, and is a result of the aging process. Don’t feel bad about getting rid of the rind, as it’s the equivalent of discarding the peel from a banana.
So how can you tell when you’ve left the usable portion of cheese and crossed the border into unusable rind? Keep an eye open for visual clues, including the texture and loft of the cheese.
Look for the rind line, which is often quite obvious once you deliberately look for it – usually about half a centimetre (or a quarter inch) in from the edge, though this can vary depending on age and how the cheese was stored. The dark outer layer is dry and hard, so avoid using it. A little bit, especially from the boundary between the cheese and the rind, is fine, but once the cheese becomes tough and hard to grate, toss it and start a new wedge.
You’ll also notice a difference in how the cheese looks once it’s grated. When using a microplane, the grated cheese should be white, curly and fluffy. If the grated cheese looks hard, dried-out, straight and waxy, and the colour shifts from white to yellowish, you’ve hit the rind. Rather than throwing it out immediately, add the rind at the beginning of making a spaghetti sauce or minestrone soup. It will impart a lovely cheesy flavour to the finished dish. Remember to remove the rind before serving.