Grana Padano Cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano’s Younger Brother
How hard it is to live in the shadow of a famous relative, Grana Padano, a hard Italian cheese and part-time younger brother of Parmigiano Reggiano, knows firsthand.
Many people often confuse it with parmesan, some believe that it is a low-quality analogue, and someone has never heard of it at all. Yes, not a king, but still this cheese deserves attention!
How was born and lived The story says that Grana Padano was born in the countryside near the Po River around 1000. There wasn’t such an abundance of food at that time as it is today. Not a single product obtained on the farm wasted. In connection with the development of animal husbandry, the question arose about the use of milk not used during the day.
Fresh cheese quickly deteriorated, so the idea came up of hard cheese, which later gained great popularity. It is believed that the mass production of grains began in 1135 on the monastery territory in Chiaravalle Abbey. Therefore, monasteries can rightfully be considered the first large-scale cheese dairies.
The monks called this cheese caseus vetus, which means “old cheese”. But most ordinary consumers did not know Latin and came up with a different name for it, indicating its grainy texture (grana – grain). So the cheese received a new name “Formaggio di Grana” or simply “Grana”, which has survived to this day. There is evidence that the oldest grana Padano comes from Lodi, but along with it are mentioned Milan (Milano), Parma (Parma), Piacenza (Piacenza), Mantova (Mantova).
Over time, this product began to be considered very valuable, and therefore its popularity was growing rapidly. So, for example, there is a record of how, in 1504, Isabella d’Este, sharing it with her father and brother (Lords of Ferrara), said: “Half of the cheese for each of you, because its value is more important than its quantity!” Grana It was claimed to such an extent that in 1525 the overseer of one of the farms complained about how difficult it is to get “eight pieces of a good three-year-old cheese”, which the king of Spain promised.
The next three centuries did not make any changes to the technology of its manufacture. Only after 1837 were the first cheese-making research institutes created. Global changes in production occurred on June 1, 1951, when an agreement was signed establishing clear production rules and quality characteristics of cheese. It was after this that two separate varieties of Grana Lodigiano (Grana Lodigiano), which later became Grana Padano, and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmigiano-Reggiano) appeared. On October 30, 1955, by decree of the president of the republic, “production methods, features and areas of cheese production” were defined.
In 1996, Grana Padano received the status of cheese with a protected name by origin (DOP). How do the rules for the manufacture of grains padano have not changed for almost a thousand years. It is made in many provinces of 5 regions of Italy: Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia, Piemonte, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto.
There are special requirements for milk for cheese, but it is worth noting that they are not as strict as for parmesan. In the diet of dairy cows, at least 75% of the feed must be received in the production area. For the production of grains, partially skim milk is taken from no more than 2 milks. The cheese making process takes place in copper or inside copper-coated boilers, shaped like an inverted bell with a volume of 1000 liters.
From one vat, in the end, two heads of cheese will be obtained, which the masters call “twins.” The milk is heated to 31-33 degrees, add starter serum remaining from the cheese of the previous day, and rennet obtained from calves, and left to clot for 45-60 minutes.
Next, the cheese clot is cut and, stirring, continue heating to 53-56 degrees. Curd particles settle to the bottom of the boiler for about 70 minutes. After that, the operators, using wooden shovels and a cloth called “schiavino” (translated from Italian means “slave”), pick up the clot from the vat and divide it into two equal parts. Each half is wrapped in a linen towel.
The new cheese is placed in a wooden mold, Teflon is also used now, and firmly pressed with a heavy disk of the same material. After about 12 hours, plates marked with four-leaf clover, serial number, provincial code, month of production and dotted rhombuses (graf padano symbol) are distributed across the surface between the cheese and the mold wall. Then add a layer of casein, which will become part of the cheese crust. After 24 hours, the cheese is placed in a steel, perforated, slightly convex shape, which will give it the final look in a couple of days. Now the grana is ready for salting, it is placed in salt water for 16-25 days (time depends on the size, shape and level of salting). After drying in special rooms, the ripening process begins, which lasts from 9 to 24 months.