Hy-Vee sponsors "The Crack Heard 'Round the Midwest"

On 11/11/11, at 11:11 a.m., more than 135 Hy-Vee stores in eight states will participate in a centuries-old ceremony by simultaneously "cracking" giant wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano - the "King of Cheeses."

Nov 09, 2011, 19:40 ET from Hy-Vee, Inc.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- If you listen closely this Friday, November 11, at 11:11 a.m., you may hear the sound of Hy-Vee history being made.

That's when more than 135 Hy-Vee stores in eight states will take part in an event the company has dubbed "The Crack Heard 'Round the Midwest." At precisely 11:11 a.m., these stores will simultaneously break open giant wheels of the celebrated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese using a traditional process known as "cracking."

"We've never attempted a simultaneous event of this magnitude before, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is worth the extra effort," said Tom Hobt, Hy-Vee vice president of perishables. "Everything about this cheese is exceptional – from its history, to the way it's made, to its taste and nutritional value. This is going to be a very special experience for customers who love great cheeses."

Parmigiano-Reggiano, the original parmesan cheese, is handmade exclusively in the northern Italian provinces between the rivers Po and Reno. Here artisans craft each wheel of cheese using traditional methods passed down through generations, under the watchful eye of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano, which guarantees the cheese's authenticity. Each wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, weighing about 85 pounds, is allowed to age for an average of two years to achieve the rich, fruity flavor and granular texture that characterize this "King of Cheeses."

To preserve the internal crystalline structure that gives the cheese its distinctive salty crunch, wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano are "cracked" rather than cut. This painstaking 30-minute process involves the use of a rectangular spatula to split the wheel of cheese along its natural fault lines, followed by the insertion of an almond-shaped knife to wedge apart the pieces. The wheel is halved and quartered, with the quarters further broken down into pieces bearing the band of rind identifying the cheese as authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

"This method of cracking is a centuries-old tradition that protects the structural integrity of the cheese," Hobt said. "If you cut the crystals, the cheese deteriorates faster. Cracking looks tougher than it is – the process requires patience and precision more than strength."

Hobt said Parmigiano-Reggiano is at the height of its flavor immediately after cracking, "which is why we've invited customers to come and share this one-of-a-kind tasting experience." Parmigiano-Reggiano also is renowned for its health benefits – it's highly nutritious, easily digestible and lower in fat and sodium than other hard grating cheeses.

Hobt noted that Hy-Vee has imported more than 19,000 pounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for this promotion, enabling stores to offer it at a special price of $19.99 a pound. Following the cracking on November 11, Hy-Vee stores will be sampling the freshly cracked cheese and offering recipes and serving suggestions.

Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores in eight Midwestern states. For 2011 the company recorded total sales of $7.3 billion, ranking it among the top 25 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States. Visit the company's website at www.hy-vee.com

SOURCE Hy-Vee, Inc.