When asked what the world’s best-known delicious cheese topping is, the first answer that pops into your head is “Parmesan Cheese”!
Parmesan cheese is an Italian hard, granular cheese made from cow's milk and aged for at least a year. It has a firm gritty texture and a fruity nutty flavour, with a taste very similar to Mozzarella cheese.
This delicacy is usually served grated over pasta or in soups and risotto, but it may also be eaten on its own as a snack. It is popularly known to increase the taste of almost any dish. But then, a question you don’t have to ask with Chewwies; is this lovely delicacy permissible by Islamic law? Read on to learn the answer!
The halal status of this cheese is often a subject of debate. Some scholars agree that it is halal while others say it is haram. Well then, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients used in the production of these tasty treats and the reasons for this argument.
Parmesan Cheese Ingredients
Here are some of the ingredients used in making this cheese;
Flour is one of the most useful kitchen products. It is needed to produce lots of edibles. In parmesan, cheese flour is mixed with egg olive oil and brewer's yeast to form the dough. The most common kind of flour used is corn flour and it is halal.
Lard is used in the production of cheese to hold all elements of the dough together. It is used in place of butter because it binds better.
Lard is made using animal fat, mostly pigs, and according to the laws of Islam, anything from pork is prohibited, hence lard is non-halal. Once it is used in parmesan cheese, it makes the cheese non-halal.
Parmesan Cheese is made from milk obtained from grown cows. It's important to use fresh milk from a healthy animal when making cheese.
It acidifies the bacteria causing the separation of the curds from the whey while preventing the growth of unfavourable microorganisms. Milk could be halal or not depending on how it was produced.
Brewer yeast is the more nutritious kind of yeast, It is used to ferment the cheese, which is a vital process in cheese making. Sadly, This type of yeast is non-halal as it is of alcoholic origin.
Two of the most common oils in parmesan cheese are sunflower and olive oil. They are used as replacements for milk fats, as they can alter both the cheese's texture or colour and also increase its nutritional content. They are both of plant origin, hence halal!
The animal enzyme plays a very crucial role in cheese making, It is used in the separation of cheese curds from liquid, causing them to form clumps. This is done by concentrating casein, the main protein.
Rennet, however, places a huge question mark on the halal status of parmesan cheese, as there are different schools of thought on its permissibility. It contains animal enzymes and can only be halal if the animal source is sure to be halal.
This is similar to salted butter. The only difference is that it comes with more water and more salt. It is used in certain baked dishes where the butter's pure, sweet cream flavour is needed.
Unsalted butter allows the authentic, organic flavour of your meals to come through when cooking. While all salted butter is halal, unsalted butter is only halal when made with lactic acid and pasteurized sweet milk.
This kickstarts the fermentation process of the cheese and increases its nutritional value. They are cooked with fresh milk and citric acid to produce curds. Whey plays a similar role in cheese as it does in the production of mozzarella. Whey could be halal if it is produced without using pork or any other haram meat.
Wines are used in making a special kind of parmesan cheese. It gives a heavenly feel when the cheese melts in your mouth. It simply involves soaking the soft curds in the white wine.
Islam dietary law frowns at anything alcoholic, hence this is considered haram! Other ingredients used include; Garlic, lemon, nutmeg, pepper, chicken, carrots, potatoes, salt, water and sugar. The key to consuming halal parmesan cheese is checking the label to ensure it contains no trace of haram ingredients.
Parmesan Cheese production method
Parmesan cheese is made following a strict pattern which involves filling the copper drums with milk directly from the closeby healthy farms. Each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano requires 550 litres of milk. Rennet alongside whey is added, and the milk slowly and naturally coagulates.
They use a special instrument called a "spino," to break the curd formed is broken into tiny grains. The cheese granules are cooked to a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes, they drop to the bottom of the drum and merge into a single mass.
After this the cheese is given its final shape, then salted and left. The minimum maturation period is 12 months, and could even get to as many as 40 months or more. A Series of quality inspections are done during that period.
The processes of making parmesan cheese are halal, as they don’t seem to have any contrary process! The debate on the halal status of parmesan is based on the source of the rennet used, which solely depends on how the animal was slaughtered and treated.
So to be on the safe side, avoid all parmesan delicacies with either whey or rennet, except if you have a way of validating its halal status.