Parmesan-type cheeses are the most consumed special cheeses in Brazil. It is generally sold in retail shops, either grated or in wedge-shaped pieces, and its quality varies considerably, which is reflected directly in its price. There is lack of processing standardization and, since the ripening period is fundamental for the quality of this hard, semi-fat cooked cheese, this stage seems to be the thin line between low and high quality products. It is important to note that the Italian Parmegiano Reggiano is matured for a period of twelve months, as well as its rival Grana Padano, and this long ripening period causes changes making them gourmet, highly-valued cheeses. In the present study, twelve different Parmesan-type cheeses were purchased from the Brazilian retail market and evaluated for microbiological, physicochemical, and instrumental parameters. Heterogeneous quality was confirmed by microbiological problems detected in the samples and physicochemical composition that did not meet current Brazilian specifications. The use of principal component analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis made it possible to separate the samples into three distinct groups, mainly due to different acidity and moisture levels, water activity, and hardness values. The price per kg was also considered and was correlated with moisture, acidity, and texture.
cheese; microbiology; chemical composition; texture; PCA; HCA