A Northern Cheese Experience

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Fattoria Scalabrini cheese round

When Bob asked our friend Roberto where we could see a cheese factory, he recommended Scalabrini Fattoria, a smaller, family-run business, just outside of the town of Reggio Emilia. It was about a fifteen minute drive to their bucolic dairy farm and cheese factory.
First we visited their large warehouse where 15,000 rounds of cheese were cared for during the two year aging process. With the help of some fancy machines, each round is rotated and cleaned on a regular basis because they continue to “perspire” a bit as they go through the aging process. Then, after twenty four months, the cheese is ready to be cut and sold.
We were also allowed to walk around the dairy and check out the happy cows and young calves. The workers greeted us as they went about moving hay bales and cleaning the stalls. We didn’t notice any flies anywhere. It looked like a very efficient operation.
This spring morning the farm had seven copper pots full of steaming milk and rennet. When it was time, we entered the workroom and watched how a team of three people captured the cheese in a type of cheesecloth and formed the rounds. As they moved down the row of pots, each person performed their task in perfect harmony with the other. Then, after the cheese hardened a bit, each round was cut in two. When the rounds were dry enough, they were surrounded by a plastic case that imprinted the important numbers and dates, along with the beautiful family crest.
We found out that this family farm has been in operation for three generations. They use sustainable methods for both the dairy and the cheese factory. The left over milk is sold to a nearby farm for their pigs and the cow’s waste is turned into manure for their fields and the neighboring agriculture.
When we talked to the owner, we learned that Italian regulations for Parmigiano Reggiano are quite strict. For instance, the cows can only be fed grass and hay—not corn or any other hormones. The cheese is made using only cow’s milk, rennet and salt. There are absolutely no chemicals or preservatives used in making this brand of cheese. Each farm has a number that is imprinted on their rounds of cheese and these rounds can be inspected at any time.
Unfortunately Scalabrini’s cheese is only sold in Italy and Canada. But if you want the same quality, look for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Like the famous Balsamic Vinegar that only comes from Modena, if you want the best Parmesan cheese, it should say Parmigiano Reggiano on the label.
Below: Cheese Rounds being aged, the workroom, making the cheese rounds, dividing the cheese in two, happy cows, the farm, signage, the family stamp

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About msraaka

I am a writer, ESL teacher and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there. We love the people, the language, the food, architecture, art and the history of this amazing place.
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