Remember that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark with countless crates filling the warehouse as far as the eye could see?
Transport that warehouse an hour south of Milan, and fill it with 520,000 wheels of cheese. You are in the epicentre of parmesan cheese production, something which is licensed to take place in just five provinces in Italy. It is head-spinning stuff, as members of the Ponti’s Italian Kitchen team found during their visit to the Colla factory, located deep in the heart of the Piacenza Food Valley.
Parmigiano Reggiano is produced according to traditional methods that have been unchanged for countless generations, and is accorded PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status which is recognised worldwide. The Ponti’s team witnessed an extraordinary attention to detail and passion for a cheese. Every wheel carries the designation of the farm from which the cows’ milk was sourced, and the date of production. The first 48 hours are critical, the control of temperature, timing and curdling a secret closely held by each producer.
Quality is assessed by master cheese makers, who tap the outer skin with a special hammer, using the timbre and vibration as their guide. Each wheel (weighing in at a chunky 38kg) is given a turn and clean every 15 days, yes all half a million of them. The instantly recognisable taste of genuine Parmesan develops whilst it is aged for between 18 and 30 months.
“We were honoured to have received this insight to a product we serve every day to our customers,” said Deputy Manager Argys Myrtja. “It was almost as though we had entered a secret place, the inner sanctum of cheese!”
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