Il re dei formaggi
MAKING OF PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, A THOUSAND YEARS OF TRADITION.
A family friend took us to visit his cheese factory where the famous and unique Parmigiano Reggiano is produced. We went in Reggio countryside, among extensive fields of grass, rivers, farmhouses and of course historical cheese factories.
The factory is called "Caseificio del Milanello Terre di Canossa" in Campegine in the province of Reggio Emilia. We were really lucky to witness the whole procedure in making the Parmigiano.
We have been welcomed by the "Casaro", the responsable of everything in the caseificio, an artisan who has the responsibility to follow the rules and the ancient process to make a perfectly balance Parmigiano, and more importantly, a product that is of "Denominazione d’origine Protetta" (Protected designation of origin).
Its unique and inimitable taste is made by a long journey of nine centuries of history, in a fertile countryside running from the Apennines to the Po, in farms and cheese factories full of passion for things done carefully.
These are the big boilers, where workers put the fresh milk that came from the farms in the morning. To make 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cheese it takes 16 liters of milk (540 oz), Each boiler has about 10 quintals of milk, in which are produced two "forme", approximately 50 kg each.
The boiler is heated to a temperature of 37 degrees, and then the "siero innesto" and the "caglio" are added. The "siero innesto" is a paste created the day before from the milk, which helps the fermentation.
The "caglio" is an enzyme, which is removed from the stomach of calves; all infants have this enzyme, as it serves to coagulate the milk. With the enzyme of "caglio", the molecule of fat and casein of the milk, binds together, thus making the milk coagulates. After 10 minutes, the mass of 10 quintals of milk becomes coagulated. Then they switch to crushing, with an instrument made up of many blades, called "spiga".
Subsequently, the "forma" are putted into molds and left to rest.
At 8 pm, the "forma" will get applied the famous band that distinguishes the Parmigiano cheese, with indicated: month, year of production, the number of caseificio and a bunch of other important informations and sigil of guarantee.
"A sort of ID of the cheese, is always different every day. If we lose a band, we have to report to the police, like you do with any ID card. It is an official document."
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, it is made only and exclusively in the provinces of Reggio, Parma and Modena, all that is out of this district is called "Grana".
In the salting room, the "forme" are putted in rest salty underwater, using an Israeli salt, because it leaves the water pure and clean.
Then the moment that everyone was waiting for: entering the "magazzino di stagionatura" (wharehouse of seasoning). A huge space full of thousands of thousands of "forme": an incredible sight!
"In our area there are about 350 caseifici, each caseificio has his own number, we are the 257."
"In here there are around 25 thousand forme, each forma costs about 400 Euros, for a total of 10 million euro of value. This is one of the biggest caseifici in the area."
A machine every day pass through every forma to clean and turn every single one of them.
After a year that the "forme" have been placed in the warehouse, specialists and experts from the consorzio agrario (farmer cooperative), come to control and "beat" the forme one by one, to see if it meets the requirements to be an original Parmigiano Reggiano.
The Casaro was so nice that showed us the classic process of opening a "forma", truly a incredible moment: the forma has to be splitted in two equal part horizontally with a specific cutting method using different knifes. Tasting a fresh opened forma is incomparable. The following Parmigiano was a 24 months old.
The secret of Parmigiano cheese is in the meadow. The grass and the food of the cows is all controlled and guarantee: the seeds are specially selected for the Parmigiano cheese. It's like a living thing, needs sun, water and food. The sun is free, water is the rain and clean water from local irrigation wells, and the food, well... is the manure. That comes from the cow, which produces milk, meat and manure for the fields.
Through the production of this cheese, the whole environment is kept health and truly clean.
It is a marvelous complete natural cycle that has been repeated for a millennium.