We had the pleasure of staying on a dairy farm that produces wonderful Parmigiano Reggiano yesterday. This farm took great pride in every aspect of producing their cheese. The process was completed by hand, even though the cheese would be sent off and distributed among all other Parmigiano Reggiano. The words artisan and cooperative were frequently used when describing their process. Three farmers share this facility to produce 10 wheels a day or about 3,000 wheels a year. A mixer could be used but they say that they like to feel the cheese when it is made. When the milk is brought in it is placed in the long shallow container to allow all of the fats to go to the top. Only the leanest part of the milk is used, making it much less fatty than other cheeses, but still having an amazing deep flavor. Once the milk is siphoned off it is put into large copper vats and the rennet is added.
Paddles are used to stir the cheese rather than a mixer to cut the cheese.
The cheese is then stored in vats of brine (salt water) where through osmosis the salt is absorbed into the cheese. Later through the aging process of 2 years the salt crystallizes.
The cheese is formed and weighted to drain.
The cheese is now ready to take its final shape as a wheel.
The cheese is aged and cared for 1 year before shipping to a warehouse to be distributed a year later. Italians eat 90% of the Parmigiano Reggiano.
A beautiful final product.