A friend of mine, a popular chef of Bologna, asked me to take him to visit a famous dairy very closed to Pavullo Nel Frignano where the real traditional Parmigiano Reggiano of the Appennines is produced.
We have to leave quite early this morning because it takes about one hour an half to reach this place on the mountain area!
But we are lucky, the sun's shining and today is like a spring day, hot and bright. Perfect for this tour!
After a couple of hours it is time for lunch and in the area of Pavullo the well known "Crescentine montanare" with ham, cheese and "pesto" can't be missed!
When the doors of the dairy opened, more than 14 wheels of Parmigiano of about 40 kilograms appeared like a vision! Ennio, the owner, welcomes us in a very friendly way.
He explains us that this Parmisan is produced with the milk delivered by his partner breeders twice a day. One is the milk of the early morning, the second of the evening. The milk arrives at the cheese factory in the late afternoon and it is placed in large vats where it develops the milk ferments and the fat rises spontaneously bringing up impurities. This is the phase called "surfacing".
The morning after the fat in excess is separated and used for the production of butter. The cheese maker, who is the most important person of the dairy, starts its activity and fills the copper cauldrons.In the cavity of the copper cauldrons the steam flows reaching at the beginning the temperature of 20°C. to prepare the mix of milks to receive the ferments. Later it reaches a temperature of 33° and finally up to 55°C.
The entire story of how the cheese maker produces this gorgeous cheese it is really difficult to explain. You really have to come and see his own ability with your own eyes!
Anyway, the curd obtained is wrapped in clothes and placed in round wooden moulds to obtain their final shapes. Inside these moulds the wheels will be periodically turned during the day in order to help the whey in excess to come out. At the end of this first day the clothes are taken away and special marking bands (which states the factory registration number, the month and year of production, the PDO marking and the registered name of Parmigiano Reggiano) are put on their crusts.
After four days the wheels of Parmigiano are ready to enter into big vats full of a water and salt solution where must be kept for about 20 days to absorb salt in order to have the right taste and a better conservation.
The salt is the only preservative that can be added to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
After the immersion in the water and salt solution the wheels come out. To help them to dry they are placed in a hot room and then they begin their maturation period in a special storehouse very close to the farm.
What a wonderful day! Parmigiano Reggiano in this dairy near Pavullo is still produced in a traditional way!