Grana Padano

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Identikit

A product of the Padana Plain, Grana Padano is a fine and widely appreciated cheese, a symbol of Italian gastronomic excellence throughout the world.

Obtained from semi-skimmed cows’ milk, this semi-fat cheese has a hard, finely granular texture, a white or pale yellow colour and is enclosed in a hard, smooth and thick dark yellow rind.

It has a fragrant aroma and a characteristic, persistent flavour. It is aged for an average of 16 months.

labelProtected Designation of Origin (from 1996)

Characteristics

    • Average weight of a wheel: 35 Kg
    • Diameter: 35-45 cm
    • Height: 18-25 cm
    • Fat content: min. 32%

Ageing

    • From 9 to 16 months
    • Over 16 months
    • Riserva: over 20 months

History

There is a fascinating story behind the origins of Grana Padana which date back to the year 1000 and the ingenuity of the Benedictine monks. The land reclamation work conducted by the Cistercian monks from the abbey at Chiaravalle favoured the spread of cattle herding, which soon generated a ready supply of milk greatly in excess of the needs of the population.

It was then that the monks developed the “recipe” for Grana Padano, a brilliant solution to the conservation of the excess milk.

A hard cheese was created that on ageing conserved the nutritional properties of milk and acquired an unmistakeable mild yet savoury flavour. A cheese that was automatically attributed the name “grana” or “grain” thanks to its typically  granular texture.

The fame of Grana Padano was consolidated over time and it soon became a fine cheese that would feature in the Renaissance banquets of princes and dukes, but which was also a principal source of sustenance for the people of the countryside during the terrible famines.

A cheese with a dual spirit: on the one hand a key ingredient in the elaborate noble cuisine and on the other a mainstay of the popular gastronomic tradition.

As time passed, the practice of transforming milk into “Grana” spread, becoming one of the pillars of the agricultural economy.

The production traditions of Grana Padano have been handed down unchanged over the centuries which ensures that still today the product retains the sensorial characteristics and appearance that have made it famous throughout the world.

Territory

The area of production and grating of Grana Padano PDO comprises the provinces of: Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Torino, Verbania, Vercelli, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantua to the left of the Po’, Milano, Monza, Pavia, Sondrio, Varese, Trento, Padova, Rovigo, Treviso, Venezia, Verona, Vicenza, Bologna to the right of the Reno, Ferrara, Forlì Cesena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Rimini.

With exclusive reference to the milk production, the area of origin also extends to the administrative territory of the communes of: Anterivo, Lauregno, Proves, Senale-S. Felice and Trodena in the autonomous province of Bolzano.

Production

The Grana Padano PDO recipe

Grana Padano PDO is produced exclusively with raw milk from the area of production, partially skimmed  by natural separation, milked not more than twice a days from cows fed according to precise regulations and processed exclusively in copper vats or vats with a copper lining in the form of overturned bells, from each of which two cheeses are produced. The starter culture is added to the milk in the vat, which is then heated to a temperature of 31-33°C, with veal rennet being added to aid coagulation. The curd is then broken up with the stirrer or spino and scalded again while being agitated to a temperature of 53-56° C. The curd precipitates to the bottom of the vat and is left to rest for a maximum of 70 minutes, to ensure that the culture is flushed out.  Lastly, the cheesemakers use a wooden paddle and a cloth known as a schiavino to lift the curd in the vat and cut it into two equal parts, the “twin wheels”. Each of them is wrapped in a linen cloth, extracted from the vat and placed on the draining bench.

Identification marks

At this point, each new wheel is enclosed tightly in a mould, once made of wood and nowadays of a suitable plastic material, and lightly pressed with a disc of the same material.  After around 12 hours in the mould, a plastic band, the branding mould with the identification marks in relief, is inserted between the mould and the edge or scalzo of the cheese: the cloverleaf with the number of the cheesehouse, the provincial code and the month and year of production, along with the small, dotted lozenge shapes that alternate the words GRANA and PADANO.

Ageing

Grana Padano aged for between 9 and 16 months

Aged for between 9 and 16 months, this is a table cheese par excellence, with a generally mild, delicate flavour that recalls milk, a compact texture and a very pale yellow colour that does not yet present the typical granular structure. Ideal as an accompaniment for an aperitif, flaked in a fresh salad or to complete a carpaccio. It is ideal for the production of sauces and creams.

Grana Padano aged for over 16 months

With a slightly more intense pale yellow colour, Grana Padano that has been aged for over 16 months features the typical granular texture, the beginning of the formation of “calcium lactate crystals” and the flaking fracture pattern. It has a full and pronounced but never piquant flavour. It is a versatile product, particularly suited to grating but also as a table cheese. Excellent in hot recipes such as flans, soufflés and quiches and for enhancing pasta, risottos and soups.

Grana Padano “Riserva” aged for over 20 months

A Grana Padano cheese may be identified as “RISERVA” when it has been aged for at least 20 months from its making in the area of production cheese and presents the following qualitative characteristics:

  • prime choice;
  • evident granular texture with a clear radial, flaking structure;
  • a homogeneous white or pale yellow colour;
  • absence of anomalous odours;
  • fragrant and delicate flavour.

This is therefore a fine cheese with highly prized specific characteristics, which is selected through a comprehensive process that takes into account the external appearance of the wheel, the structure of the cheese, its colour and its sensorial characteristics.

The RISERVA cheese is a new selection, created for the most demanding consumers distinguished by their sophisticated gastronomic culture and their search for products of excellence.

Thanks to its remarkable sensorial qualities, Grana Padano RISERVA represents the finest expression of this cheese and will be a protagonist of any table, whether grated or as a cheese to be eaten on its own. It is capable of achieving particularly long periods of maturation – up to 24 months and beyond – acquiring an ever richer and fuller flavour, without however ever being aggressive.  The choice of connoisseurs and gourmets.

Nutrition

What makes Grana Padano a complete food favouring the wellbeing of children, adolescents, pregnant women, sports men and women and the elderly is the excellent balance of the energy content and quality and quantity of the nutrients it contains.

As it is a semi-fat cheese, its energy content is lower than that of many foods which are commonly consumed but have a lower nutritional value.

Grana Padano is an excellent natural food capable of providing many of the substances required by man.

In the Kitchen

With its strong but elegant, intense but velvety flavour, Grana Padano makes an excellent table cheese. Grated or in flakes or petals it may be used both as an ingredient - in fillings for meat or vegetables, in quiches or in gratin dishes - and as a condiment for pasta, rice, risottos and soups.

Conservation

Grana Padano should be placed in the least cold section of the refrigerator, where the temperature is normally around 4°C. It is also advisable to wrap Grana Padano in a transparent film.