Grana Padano is a cheese originating in the Po river Valley in northern Italy that is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. There are fewer regulations governing its production compared to Parmigiano-Reggiano. This hard, crumbly-textured cheese is made with unpasteurized cows’ milk that is semi-skimmed through a natural creaming process. To preserve the authenticity of the manufacturing processes and raw materials used to make this cheese, European Union law has protected the name Grana Padano under the protected designation of origin since 1996 (PDO).[A]
Grana Padano was developed by monks of Chiaravalle Abbey in the 12th century. It can last a long time without spoiling, and is sometimes aged for up to two years. It is made in a similar way to the Parmigiano Reggiano of Emilia-Romagna, but over a much wider area and with different regulations and controls.
Like Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano is a semi-fat hard cheese which is cooked and ripened slowly for at least nine months. If it passes quality tests, it is fire-branded with the Grana Padano trademark. The cows are milked twice a day. Milk produced in the evening is skimmed to remove the surface layer of cream and mixed with fresh milk produced in the morning. The partly skimmed milk is transferred into copper kettles and coagulated; the resulting curd is cut to produce granules with the size of rice grains, which gives the cheese its characteristic texture, and then warmed to 53–56 °C (127–133 °F). It is produced year-round, and varies seasonally as well as by year. Though similar to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the younger Grana Padano cheeses are less crumbly, milder and less complex in flavor than the better-known, longer-aged Parmigiano.
About 150 factories make Grana Padano in the Po Valley area, and about 4.5 million cheese are manufactured.
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