Grana Padano: everything you need to know about maturation
In Italian supermarkets, you can find entire lines of shelves dedicated to cheeses. There are national types of cheeses as well as international types and each one has its own taste and story. With this huge selection of cheeses, it sometimes happens, that you feel confused and that you are not sure about which type of cheese to choose. Not knowing if the ingredients on the label correspond to the sensations that you feel with your senses you end up buying the first cheese that comes along. In the case of popular brands, we can even find different varieties of one and the same type of cheese. So how is it possible to orient oneself in this enormous world of different types of cheeses? We from Latteria Sociale Mantova decided to help you using all our knowledge about one of the most important aspects regarding cheese wheels: the maturation.
Grana Padano PDO – the ripening
All wheels are constantly controlled and have to respond to specific characteristics and producing methods to get the official branding of Grana Padano PDO. Of course, also the process of maturation is a part of this procedure because it is very important and it serves to determine the organoleptic characteristic of the cheese. After the production process, the wheels are transported into massive aging warehouses to rest. These warehouses are insulated and designed with equipment that regulate the temperature, the moisture level and the aeration. Some of you might have already seen this kind of scenario: thousands of wheels that rest in the endless long and high shelves, which creates a magic atmosphere where time seems to stand still. It is this time of waiting that makes the taste of Grana Padano so unique. Every two weeks the wheels are turned over, cleaned and after nine months of aging, they are tested with the traditional tools.
This process requires great expertise and experience. The test starts by tapping on the wheel with a special small steel hammer, which causes a noise. This noise gives the technicians the opportunity to spot any defects that may have been caused by abnormal fermentation. The second test checks the scent and flavor of the cheese using a special needle to remove a piece of it without damaging the wheel. To be absolutely certain that the cheese is of the highest quality, a probe is used to extract a small sample of the inner texture. This sample is 1 cm in diameter and 7-8 cm long so that the technicians can check the fragrance, color and elasticity of the texture. Eventually they can also control if there are any abnormalities or other defects. If there is a wheel that does not show the characteristics required, it will not be branded but the marks of origin impressions left by the moulds will be deleted. Only if the wheel meets the requirements according to the product specifications determined by the Consortium, it will receive the fire-branded mark which certifies the quality of the cheese and its official “Grana Padano” status. This is always a very emotional moment for all producers because it reflects the good work carried out by all of us, and we from the Latteria are especially proud of our official branding number 427.
Young Grana Padano aged between 9 and 16 months
It is the youngest cheese of the family; soft textured, pale straw-colored, highly versatile and excellent when grated. It is ideal as a table cheese and for eating regularly and for everyday cooking. Thanks to its delicateness, it goes with young and light white wines.
Grana Padano aged between 16 and 20 months
It is tasty but not overpowering, with an aroma of hay and dried fruit. It is perfect for enthusiastic cooks who are always looking for that exclusive “magic touch”. This cheese is ideal with heavy red wines and thanks to its grainy texture with evidence of calcium lactate crystals it is tasty as table as well as grated cheese.