On a trip to Italy, I had the great fortune to following the making of Grana Padano, one of the most popular cheeses of Italy. The name comes from the noun grana (grain), which refers to the grainy texture of the cheese and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana.
The story begins in a mountain top village, the name of which I have forgotten, where the cheese maker operates his facility behind the family home. His work supports the entire village, as he purchases the milk from all the cows and each family owns one to two cows. Needless to say he is well liked and well-known.
Grana Padano is a semifat hard cheese which is cooked and ripened slowly, for at least nine months. The cows are milked twice a day, the milk is left to stand and then partially skimmed. Milk produced in the evening is skimmed to remove the surface layer of cream and mixed with fresh milk produced in the morning. The milk is transferred into the copper kettles and coagulated. The resulting curd is cut to produce granules the size of rice grains – this give the cheese its wonderful texture.
When the cheese has hardened it is transferred to an aging facility that represents many small producers and is a consortium that will then market and sell the cheeses to buyers around the world.
Of course along the way we had to visit some of the great Italian sausage plants and enjoy tasting the many beautiful meats and enjoying the fragrance in the aging facilities.
We then retired to our wonderful villa, with each room featuring a hand painted mural on at least one of the walls. What a charming and enchanting venture this was!