History of the Oldest Grana Cheese




Extract from http://www.zafferano.org/rivista/21/pdf_zafferano_21/zafferano21_13-15.pdf

… to be piled in tall stacks and kept from one year to the next, considerably improving in intensity and taste.

Someone might be tempted to make a highly improbable connection between the monks of Chiaravalle and the Templars (will we soon find “The Mysteries of the Secret Grail-Padano in the bookshops?), but it was the mysterious alchemy of fire and an empiricism devoid of biochemical knowledge – in short, the knowledge and necessities of the time – which performed the miracle which would then be repeated every day until now, for almost 1000 years.

Cacio Del Po Formaggio Piacenza FWT Tours 004

On the example of Bernardo di Claivaux’s Cistercians, other abbeys to the north of the Po began transforming the abundant milk – bought from peasants or in the markets – into caseus vetus (old cheese), soon renamed “grana” cheese reflecting its appearance. In just a few years, the entire Padana plain from one side to the other of the Po became a flourishing market for “grana” cheese, with buyers coming by road and water from Venice, Rome and Florence. The towns of Lodi, Piacenza, Milan, Brescia, Mantova and Parma stood out for the best quality products and as early as the 13th century the best cheeses were used as goods for trading or payment.

Wren King

It is no coincidence that the word “grana” became a synonym for money throughout the Lombardy and Veneto area! Today it’s easy to say Grana! But it takes a little longer to make this cheese which, “in winter and then in summer, even when made by the same cheese maker in the same dairy” has “such great variability it is as if you were looking at two different types of cheese”.

Depending on the period of production, you can find cheeses made with summer milk from grazing cows (maggengo, yellower, tastier, fattier and softer), or in winter with the sweet slightly acid milk typical of cows fed on dry forage, known as vernenghi and tending to be paler, slightly less fatty and with a less fragrant taste and aroma.

The watershed between the two types is quartiroli made in the autumn from milk from cows fed with green forage (the fourth (or quarto) and last cutting of the grass). A place is a space with a distinctive characteristic. Each product of a place – led by Grana cheese – is inspired by the genius-loci or guardian “spirit” of that place, the promoter of life, guardian of all things, essence of character and catalyst of atmosphere. In ancient times, people considered.

Cacio delp po cheese tours

the environment as the sum of certain definite characteristics and recognised the vital importance of “coming to an agreement” with the spirit of the place where they lived. It would, perhaps, be worth remembering more often that the survival of the human species depends on a good relationship with the world, both physically and mentally.

The Padana plain is much more than just a geographical place and the history of Grana cheese is the ancient and inexhaustible demonstration of this. A cheese which, like an Idea, is borne from the ingenuity and good sense of those capable of looking around them, of reading between the lines of the contingent (intelligere as the Romans put it). He who manages to understand the sense of the genius-loci has understood the “character” of a place, the air you breath there, the possibilities for interacting with the world ethically, profitably, and sustainably.

Seen in this light, Grana becomes much more than a cheese, it is the people of the Padana, the colours of the houses in the village, the sky glimpsed between the trees of a wood, the fragrance of the countryside and the grass.


In paintings in Pompeii, the genius-loci is depicted as a serpent ready to strike anyone who dares undermine the health and happiness of those living in that place. Perhaps it is just the absolutely amazing effect of this ancient 36- month old Piacenza maggengo I am comforting myself with (even the mouse finds it hard to slide among the crumbs on the mat, but that is only to be expected given the predilection of mice for cheese..!), but while I am admiring this sinuous Pompeii serpent, it seems to turn into a river, or rather the Great Po River. Could it be that the genius-loci of Grana is the Po? Is the Great River a single place of men and memory?

Wren King

Does it therefore make sense to give different identities to the banks whose geographic opposition is not sufficient grounds to claim cultural distinction? If you think about it, the dichotomy between Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, in short, between the right bank and left bank of the Po, is a relatively recent debate and perhaps of more pettily economic interest rather than sociological relevance.

Without wanting to belittle the importance of the Denomination of Origins, before the birth of the consortiums (in the mid 1900s) there was only GRANA: vernengo or maggengo, mature or seasoned, at the most, from the hill or from the plain – full stop.

The rivalry between Grana from Piacenza (which, although on the right bank of the Po like Ferrara, Forlì and Ferrara, nevertheless adds the “Padano” signature to its Grana) and Grana from Parma was probably already well-developed halfway through the 16th century when the Farnese family transferred the capital of its Duchy from Piacenza to Parma.

As early as 1334, the name Grana appeared in the refectory register of the Priors of Florence and Benvenuto da Imola noted that on their journeys by sea, merchants usually took stocks of Grana from Piacenza with them as it “kept better and was more resistant to all diseases”. In the 16th century, the most esteemed Grana was therefore from Piacenza and considerable quantities of this were mixed with the Grana from Parma, equally esteemed, at least as far as Pantalone da Confienza noted a century earlier.

Parmigiano FWT

Whatever the case, customs disputes sprang up between the two cities and cheese-making rivalry led to Parma and Reggio identifying themselves as a single production area (but Charlemagne had already recognised the area as belonging to the County of Reggio, but the dioceses of Parma) and claiming the due protectionist measures.

After centuries of legal disputes and battles, particularly against Grana from Lodi, in 1954 the Consortium for the Production and Safeguarding of Parmigiano Reggiano was set up, using its symbol to mark only those cheeses held to correspond rigorously to its code of production and coming from the 600 authorised dairies. From the other side of the Po – but also in certain remnants of Emilia Romagna – it is all Grana Padano and watched over by a Consortium which in no way plays second fiddle to that of Parmigiano Reggiano, never losing sight of the thousands of years of Grana tradition, guaranteeing the quality and origin of the milk (always and exclusively unpasteurised), protecting the characteristics of production and seasoning and even vouching for the diet of the cows.

The most banal distinction between the two denominations places the accent on the fact that Parmigiano is a cheese from the hills, while Padano starts out life on the plain, originating two different milks with characteristics as different as forage and grass. But to tell the whole truth, some Padano is produced in the hills, at Oltrepo and in the provinces of Bergamo, Como, Brescia and Varese for example, and numerous “plain” dairies make Parmigiano.

And then, to come clean and without sparing words, the primogeniture of Grana belongs to the Po alone.

Certainly, Padano started life near the Abbey of Chiaravalle thanks to the Cistercian Benedictines who developed the dairy farming and cheese making system, but it was the people of this area, on both sides of the Po, who gave sense, nobility and value to a cheese unequalled anywhere in the world. On the debate of right versus left (with respect to the course of the Great River), for my patriotic delight, I give below the opinion of a first class gourmet who cannot be accused of parochialism, Alexandre Dumas. In his “Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine” from 1872 under the heading “parmigiano” the great writer says: “…despite its current name, this cheese is not actually made at Parma but in and around Lodi”

Wren King

To try and shed light on the types of product, it is worth remembering that “Grana Padano” includes at least five other noble Grana cheeses (go back and read again what I said earlier about the DOPs which absorb and standardise the pearls of our larder…):

• “Grana Mantovano” made with milk from cows fed on alfalfa and maize in those parts of Mantova province to the left of the Po (other parts on the opposite side produce P a r m i g i a n o – R e g g i a n o ) ;

• “Grana Lodigiano” or Granone, a “historic” Grana produced in the area between Lodi and Pavia. It has a more granular texture and after cutting tends to oxidise, becoming greenish. It practically disappeared in 1980, but a few years ago a number of dairies in and around Lodi stubbornly insisted on reviving it. It is strong and when freshly cut, a characteristic “tear” or drop appears between the grains due to the fact that the cheese is not pressed;

• “Grana Bresciano”, describing both the local Grana and Bagoss, a gastronomic marvel originating from Bagolino and produced in the mountain pastures of the Val Caffaro/Val Sabbia on the Brescia mountains. With a fragrant but not strong flavour, the cheese has become rare, the prerogative of a few connoisseurs. From November to June, it is made in the valley floors, but the best cheese to taste comes from milk from the alpine pastures between June and September.

• “Grana Piacentino”, another historic type, is probably the most emblematic and noble Italian Grana cheese.

• “Grana Trentino” is a sub-denomination distinguishing mountain Grana cheeses produced in the Val di Non since 1926 by the Mantova school of cheese makers.

FWT tortelli


Granone Lodigiano


Place of Birth: Italy

Region: Lombardy

spread:  extinct

Production area: Province of Lodi and surrounding areas (Po river, the left bank)

Category: cheese Recognition PAT 

Further information: Production Period: 1135 – 1980 (approx)

The Granone Lodigiano cheese was considered the progenitor of all grana cheeses, including Grana Padano, Piacentini, and much later Parmigiano Reggiano. It was produced for centuries in the territory of Lodi campaigns and some adjacent areas north of the Po . The greatest expansion occurred in the nineteenth century, with about 450 huts Lodi active in the production.

Its main characteristic, which distinguished it from other cheeses, was formed by the formation of a large amount of crystallized maturation protein – lipid (also called the “tears”) inside the “holes”, ie the small bubbles of gas that is generated to ‘ interior of the cheese during the process of maturation.

“Grana Lodigiano” or Granone, a “historic” Grana produced in the area between Lodi and Pavia. It has a more granular texture and after cutting tends to oxidise, becoming greenish. It practically disappeared in 1980, but a few years ago a number of dairies in and around Lodi stubbornly insisted on reviving it. It is strong and when freshly cut, a characteristic “tears” or drops that appear around the small granular orbs due to the fact that the cheese is not hard pressed during production;

The production of Granone Lodigiano with the “drops” ceased at the end of the seventies. In 2000 a project of the Province of Lodi did revive the production of such a cheese with the name of typical Lodi , also called “Granone type ‘ to commemorate his deceased ancestor. Today, the use of the term ‘Granone Lodigiano’ is considered improper, since it is a cheese permanently extinguished.

The Lombardy Region in the ninth revision (2014) of traditional food products ranked this cheese at number 104 .


  • History
  • The disappearance of Granone Lodigiano
  • Features
  • Processing


As with many foods of ancient origin, it is difficult to accurately determine the date of birth of the grain; tradition has it that he was born in the monastic setting, around 1135, the year of foundation of the ‘ Abbey of Chiaravalle Milanese , but it is not inconceivable that the grain was produced for some time.

The reclamation of marshy countryside to the north of the Po by the Cistercian monks created plenty of fodder , from which the expansion of cattle herds, with the result of large availability of milk; all this gave impetus to the need to transform the milk into long-life cheese. The cradle of the grain can then be placed between the Po, Ticino and Adda , with Lodi and Codogno as originating markets of this trade  . Soon the production expanded to the adjacent territories of the Po valley , crossing the Po and spreading to the Bolognese.


Lodi Codogno vies with the birthright of Granone Lodi, and certainly codognesi – by virtue of geographic proximity – they sold in large quantities on the market Piacenza , the city to which they were then tied by treaty from 1492: therefore, even before Piacenza that would produce grain, the Granone had taken the name of their town, which at that time was an important political and economic center. As evidence of this, until the birth of the brand PDO Padano and Parmigiano , in the Southern Italian grana was still called by the name of “Piacenza”.

Numerous writings attest to the spread of Parmesan cheese from the late Middle Ages : Welcome to Imola in the fourteenth century noted the custom of merchants to bring by sea from Piacenza cheese “more to keep and resistant to all diseases”; Giovanni Boccaccio in the same years in the telling Decameron (eighth day, the third novella) than in the country of plenty “it contained a whole mountain of grated Parmesan cheese.” A century later, in 1477, the doctor Pantaleone from Confienza , in his treatise on cheese, clarified: “The Piacenza cheese from Parma because some are called to Parma if they produce similar not very different in quality”. Whatever the place of production, the grain had already established reputation for its shelf life, and traveled to Italy and the Alps.

Wren King

Writing in 1513 shows that the Count Francesco Cavazzi of Somaglia , ladies Livraga and Orio , was producing in his feuds gigantic forms of Granone. A eulogy, then printed in 1542, by the Count Giulio Landi , feudal lord of Caselle , accompanied the gift of a form of grain to Cardinal Ippolito de ‘Medici, his patron: the title of Formaggiata, praised the “true and precious praises” the Piacenza cheese . In the same work it shows the three origins of the cheese (parmesan): Piacenza, Parmesan and Milanese (ie Lodi).

Here is what he wrote Bartolomeo Stefani in her cookbook The Art of well cooking (1662) about the Grana cheese:

“For the above in the goodness of cheese, among them contend Piacenza and Lodi; As for me I do not know against which of these cities decide the case, without making them a wrong poster, because the cheese of Lodi can not nominar that does not praise; nor to Piacenza you can be enjoyed, not to like. »

So if the grain is no doubt born in Lombardy , for its characteristics was soon reproduced where there was plenty of fodder, especially in the plains at the foot of the ‘ Emilian Apennines . Disputes over birthright that sometimes they feel they are not well founded: the Lodi grana farrowed early, and his heirs Po and Parma still bring to the world the glory of this cheese.


The disappearance of Granone Lodigiano 

The Granone Lodigiano no longer exists at least since the late seventies: its production depended on forage availability of water meadows , which disappeared following the introduction of intensive agriculture cereal ( maize ).

Other contributory causes of his death, of an economic nature, were: the adoption of the cow Friesian after the war, at the expense of much less productive Brown Swiss ; the use of serum-grafts [10] in place of the spontaneous fermentation by means of the native microflora (for frequent discard of swelling forms); the abandonment of the hard dry salting and long aging, 36 months (very old) up to 60 (stravecchione), necessary for the formation of the characteristic greenish appearance and the drop of serum.

With rimozine meadows in rotten it ceased even cheese production that entailed. Without rotten and without clover you can not recreate that bacterial microflora that produces the peculiar lactic fermentation that was famous the Granone Lodigiano. The consequence of this was the birth of the “tears” of whey in cheese into a small cavity formed by the fermentation gas, called “holes” [11] .


The Granone Lodigiano differed from other grain pasta with a slight green grain and the straw that came out of many “holes”, or from small gas bubbles that formed in the cheese during the long maturation. The grana cheeses do not have this phenomenon, being a compact paste.

Though belonging to the family of cheeses for grating, it was often used as a table cheese with a spicy taste and brightly salty.


Working Granone Lodigiano was similar to that of the other grana cheeses of the Po valley . The cooked pasta was obtained from milk from two different milkings evening skimmed naturally, while the morning left whole. Unlike the Grana Padano , the mass removed from the boiler it was not being pressed, so that the serum incorporated in the dough gave rise to the characteristic ‘tears’.

Also added to the mix is a little saffron who was tending to the color yellow ; the paste was finally dry salted contrary to the other grain, then undergo a maturation process that varied from a minimum of two years to a maximum of four. During this time the forms were anointed with linseed oil.

There were two versions of Granone Lodi, who were distinguished based on the period of processing: the “maggengo ‘product from 23 April to 29 September, that is, from day San Giorgio to that of St. Michael ; the “vernengo” made in the winter months.

The weight , depending on the size and duration of the maturing, ranged between thirty and forty kilograms ; in the past they were also produced weight forms of eighty pounds and more. In Lodi and in the western sector of the province of Pavia , smaller forms were also prepared, seasoned only three or four months, from which it drew the raspadüra.

The Granone Lodigiano that reached the four years of seasoning was told “stravecchione” ( “straveciòn” in Lodi dialect ): the cylindrical shape measured from forty to fifty centimeters in diameter and was high from sixteen to twenty-five.


Today’s Grana Padano

grana-padano traditions FWT


The name comes from the Italian word grana (“grain”), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana. It is called “Grana Padano” and not “Grana Padana” because the Italian word grana is a masculine noun, il grana, describing this specific cheese, and not the feminine nounla grana, which means “grain”.


Grana Padano is one of the world’s first hard cheeses, created nearly 900 years ago by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle Abbey, founded in 1135 near Lodi. By the year 1477, it was regarded as one of the most famous cheeses of Italy. It can last a long time without spoiling, sometimes aging up to two years. Today 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.

Production process

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, the milk is left to stand, and then partially skimmed. 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 the quality can vary 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 their better known, longer-aged relative.[1]


A wheel of Grana Padano is cylindrical, with slightly convex or almost straight sides and flat faces. It measures 35 to 45 cm (14 to 18 in) in diameter, and 15 to 18 cm (5.9 to 7.1 in) in height. It weighs 24 to 40 kg (53 to 88 lbs) per wheel. The rind, which is thin, is pale yellow.

Grana Padano is sold in three different ripening stages:

  • “Grana Padano” (9 to 16 months): texture still creamy, only slightly grainy
  • “Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi” (over 16 months): crumblier texture, more pronounced taste
  • “Grana Padano Riserva” (over 20 months): grainy, crumbly and full flavoured


After nine month of ageing, each wheel gets checked and, if considered of perfect quality, gets fire-branded with the Grana Padano logo by the Consorzio’s experts

Grana padano cheese typically contains cheese crystals, semi-solid to gritty crystalline spots that at least partially consist of the amino acid tyrosine.

Wren King


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