Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of Italian cheese and certainly one of the world’s most important benchmarks. Produced by almost 500 small dairies in a strictly designated area of northern Italy its age and origin is guaranteed.
For five generations, our family has been selecting and maturing the very best Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano.G.Cravero
It all began many years ago when Giorgio Cravero states that his great-great-great grandfather (also named Giorgio) left Bra one day only to return with a selection of cheeses he traded to the local market. After successfully building a network of trade for the cheese, known as ‘Bra cheese’, the Cravero family focused on selecting and maturing Parmigiano Reggiano and have been doing so since 1855.
The cheeses are firstly handmade in the San Pietro dairy in the Appennini hills of Modena from the raw milk of a small herd of less than 100 cows. The milk is collected from Caseificio Sociale San Pietro, among the mountains of Benedello di Pavullo (featured above). There are 390 producers and Cravero works with just four of them, one of them is a farmstead and the others co-operatives, one of which the Cravero family have worked with for over twenty-five years.
After meticulous maturation at the dairy for six months, the finest cheeses are graded by Giorgio and taken to Bra (home of the slow food cheese festival) for ripening. Close attentions is payed to the changing seasons and challenging conditions. The purpose built maturing room’s hold over 5’000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano at anyone time, resting on shelves made of pine, and turned regularly.
The cheeses are assessed for faults, cracks or holes as they mature. An expert Battitore evaluates each wheel with a small hammer like tool. They carefully tap each wheel on the top, bottom and sides and listen out for any defects. If there are any uncertainties the cheeses are pierced with a needle like tool and a small section of the core if taken out and tested, first of all for aroma, then secondly flavour. 90% of the time the affineur can tell if a cheese is good or not just by simply smelling it.
At two years old its succulent moist nutty texture has a complex fruity caramel sweetness that is very different to the dry and often bitter cracked cheeses matured by the large cooperatives.
Parmigiano Reggiano Interesting Facts
Roughly 10% of all Parmigiano Reggiano produced never makes it to market due to the rigorous standards protected by DOP law.
After each cheese is inspected and graded a fire-branded mark is applied on the outside of the cheese to prove it’s quality and authenticate the requirements of the PDO. If the cheese does not meet these standards all identifying marks and dotted inscriptions are removed.
It takes roughly 550 litres of milk to make one wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, roughly weighing around 45kg.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna, on the plains, hills and mountains enclosed between the rivers Po and Reno.
A red seal identifies the Parmigiano-Reggiano which has been matured for over 18 months. A silver seal identifies cheese which has been matured for over 22 months and a gold seal identifies a cheese which has been matured for over 30 months.
Parmesan contains up to 50% of your daily intake of calcium in just 30 grams of cheese.
In May 2012 the Emilia-Romagna region suffered two significant earthquakes destroying more than £100m worth of cheeses, roughly a third of the annual production.