Collecting Evening Milk
Parmesan cheese making begins with rich milk from cows fed an all-natural diet of grasses and hay from the approved region of production. As the milk rests overnight in metal trays, the cream rises to the top.
Skimming and Addition of Morning Milk
The cheese maker skims the evening milk, combining it with whole milk from the morning milking.
Whey Starts the Cheese Making
The milk is gently warmed in large cauldrons and some naturally fermented whey from the previous day’s production is stirred in. The whey, a thin but highly nutritious byproduct of Parmesan cheese making, starts the acidification of the milk.
Natural Rennet Goes In
Now the cheese maker adds natural calf’s rennet, which coagulates the milk. Curds form after about 20 minutes.
Breaking Up the Curds
Using an enormous balloon whisk called a spino, the cheese maker whisks the curds-and-whey mixture. Once the curds have been broken into pieces the size of a grain of wheat, this step is complete.
Cooking and “Knitting”
The cheese maker gently cooks the mixture to a specific temperature (131˚ Fahrenheit) The heat is turned off and, over a period of about an hour, the curds sink to the bottom of the cauldron. There they knit together to form a spongy mass.
Cheese Maker Delivers “Twins”
Using a long wooden paddle, the cheese maker lifts the curd mass and, dividing it in half, wraps each in muslin. The newly born cheeses are called “twins” (gemini in Italian) and, truly, they are identical—created from the same batch of milk, under exactly the same conditions.
Freshly Made Cheeses, Hung to Dry
In their muslin wrappings, the cheeses are hung on poles to shed excess liquid. Meanwhile, the whey drains out of the cauldron. Not a drop is wasted! Some of the whey is used in the next day’s cheese making and the remainder feeds local pigs destined to become Prosciutto di Parma.