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To preserve the milk for a long time, the monks devised a process of making a hard cheese, destined to improve with age, very popular even today.

It is often the protagonist of tasty recipes, delicious cutting boards and never stops giving that special touch to our dishes. Grana Padano is undoubtedly one of the most popular Italian cheeses, not only in Italy but also abroad. It is in fact the most consumed PDO cheese in the world, which has managed to conquer international palates and become very popular on the tables of many countries such as the United States, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada and even France. Unfortunately, the famous cheese also boasts numerous attempts at imitation on all continents.

It was created by the Cistercian monks

The story tells that the Grana cheese of the Po Valley was born in 1135 within the historic stone walls of the Abbey of Chiaravalle. Here the monks, after carrying out a work of reclamation of the Po plain to allow an improvement of agriculture and livestock, resulted in an excessive production of milk, much higher than the needs of the religious community and the surrounding populations. To preserve the milk for a long time, the monks devised a process of making a hard cheese, destined to improve over time, thanks to aging. In fact, the monks called it caseus vetus, which means old cheese. The people, who were not familiar with Latin, gave it another name, derived from the particularity of the pasta, compact but grainy. Thus was born the name of parmesan cheese or more simply parmesan. The most cited grana are the Lodi or Lodi, considered by many to be the oldest, the Milanese, the Parmesan, the Piacentino and the Mantuan.

The Birth of the Protection Consortium

But the real turning point came in 1951, when European technicians and dairy operators signed a “Convention”, in which they established precise rules on the denomination of cheeses and indications on their characteristics. On that occasion the “di Grana Lodigiano” cheese was distinguished, which later became “Grana Padano”, the king of Italian cheeses. It was until 1954 that Italy established some rules on the “Protection of Designations of Origin and Typical Cheese”. And so it was that on June 18, 1954, on the initiative of Federlatte (Federation of Dairy Cooperatives) and Assolatte (Associazione Industrie Lattiero-Casearie), the Consortium for the protection of Grana Padano cheese was born, to bring together all producers, seasoners and traders. of this cheese. Today there are 129 manufacturing companies, the production area extends along the entire Po Valley and includes 34 provinces from Piedmont to Veneto, from the province of Trento to that of Piacenza; even if the actual production is now concentrated in 13 provinces.

The production method of Grana Padano PDO

Grana Padano PDO is produced exclusively with raw milk, decimated by natural surfacing, milked no more than twice a day from cows fed according to precise rules and processed exclusively in inverted bell-shaped copper boilers, from each of which two are obtained. forms. Natural whey is added to the milk in the boiler, then heated to a temperature of 31-33 ° C and added with calf rennet for coagulation.

We proceed with the breaking of the curd with the thorn and the subsequent cooking up to a temperature of 53-56 ° C.

The cheese mass settles on the bottom of the boiler and is left to rest for up to a maximum of 70 minutes, to firm and purge the whey.

Finally, the operators, with a wooden shovel and a cloth called “schiavino”, lift it inside the boiler and cut it into two equal parts, the “twin shapes”.

Each of them is wrapped in a linen cloth, extracted from the boiler and placed on the sinker. At this point each new shape is enclosed in a “mold”, held tightly and lightly pressed by a disc of the same material.

About 12 hours after “putting into shape”, between the mold and the lateral part of the mold, the side, another plastic band is inserted, the marking mold, with the marks of origin in relief: the four-leaf clover with the serial number of the dairy, the initials of the province and the month and year of production, and the small dotted rhomboid lozenges that alternately carry the words “Grana” and “Padano” inside them.

The curing process

After about 24 hours, the mold is replaced with a steel one, studded with small holes and slightly rounded, which in about a day gives the cheese its definitive characteristic shape: convex sides and flat plates. At that point, it is ready for salting, immersed in a solution of water and salt for one period ranging from 14 to 30 days. After drying in a room called a hot room or stewing room, seasoning begins, from a minimum of 9 to over 20 months, in well-insulated environments, with modern temperature, humidity and ventilation control systems. During the long period of maturation, Grana Padano undergoes a series of chemical-physical and microbiological changes which are reflected in its organoleptic characteristics. In these months the wheels are cured, cleaned and turned around every 15 days.

Quality control

In the ninth month the forms of Grana Padano are examined by means of a systematic organoleptic check. All batches of cheese must comply with precise parameters such as fragrance, crispness, wholesomeness, texture, intensity and above all taste. If they pass all the tests, they receive the brand in focus, which guarantees quality. Without this brand, the cheese cannot be named or marketed as Grana Padano PDO. In fact, the shapes that bear the “Grana Padano” trademarks of origin, but do not comply with the necessary requirements upon final inspection, are subjected to the cancellation of the aforementioned trademarks by “screening”, that is covered by signs that mask rhombuses and four-leaf clover that identify Grana Padano a cheese that has not become one.

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