Early afternoon in the sleepy farmlands around the city of Parma resembles the perfect idyll. Until shortly before four o´clock the cows in Atilio Alfieris stables start getting audibly impatient. „They do have a stricht scedule“ he explains with a broad smile. Every twelve hours they need to be milked, in Alfieris case by a Sikh, „to them cows are devine and they seem to honour that!“
(den deutschsprachigen text finden Sie in der aktuellen ausgabe des WIENER!)
Even more important than the milk real parmesan cheese is made of definitely will be the nutrition his 70 cows are fed. On their 170 hectares of land the Alfieris produce hay, grain and some corn, self-evidently freshly fed, „not as silage as they are doing it“, he adds, noding north with his head. That would be north, them being the competition from the other side of the river Po who may even buy extra fodder, generally not having to follow as tight rules and criteria as the members of the Parmigiano-Reggiano-Coop Farmers.
The same goes for the cheesemaking, the dairies are rigorously monitored by the inspectors of the Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P.. Just an hour or so after milking the milk is flowing in shallow stainless steel basins, where the cream raises to the top and that way is skimmed. The next morning, together with the fresh full fat milk, it flows into deep, conical tanks, and, while precicely temperated, the enzymes in form of dried natural rennet are added. It only needs few, precisely weighed gramms of the white powder, immediately thereafter adding a bucket full of whey to adjust the acidity the coagulation starts right away.
During the whole process the cheese maker´s eyes are focused on his meters, the whole metamorphosis only taking a few minutes, but in the end the exact moment to stop it is still measured by the cheese makers obviously more sensitive finger. „After all it´s always the Casificio who makes the cheese. Even if the proceedure is highly standardised, the outcome will be determined by his personality“, Iginio Morini, Ispettore from the Consorzio that monitors the 300 dairies, explains.
After the stress in the dairy hall is over, Maestro casificio Carlo Taviani shows us the results of his work, in the storage rooms thousands of loafs are maturing to perfection, resembling a treasure of goldbarrens, while the quality checks remind you of a medical chek-up. Using a tiny hammer to knock on, the loafs are checked for impurities and airpockets, that might influence it´s taste. And if there´s any strange sound, the whole 40 kilo piece of cheese is strictly barred from getting his seal, makeing him second choice and thus being processed into some less distinctive product, not worth calling itself Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Which rarely happens, pride of thoose being involved in the making forbidding mistakes. After all, lesser quality shalt only come from them on the other side of the river!
Den deutschen Text finden Sie in der aktuellen Ausgabe des WIENER (#402)