The milk-processing method used to make this cheese dates back to the eleventh century when Benedictine and Cistercian monks embarked upon the daunting task of reclaiming and clearing the Po valley thereby also improving its living conditions.
The monks’ immense undertaking breathed new life into improvements in agriculture; livestock was also raised in the area, including cattle, used for working the land and for dairy farming. As milk became more readily available, the monks set out to improve the cheese-making process to find a way to preserve cheese for longer. They came up with a clever solution to heat the milk to draw off the curd more easily, producing a denser, longer-lasting cheese. Grana, named after its grainy texture, won immediate favour among noble families and soon became the grated cheese of choice throughout the north of Italy. Its popularity spurred strong competition among regions that produced it, with the blissful outcome that the cheese continued to improve, to become today one of the most commonly “imitated” products in the world.
The semi-fat, hard cheese is cooked and ripened slowly. It is produced by curdling the milk of cows fed on green or dried forage. The cheese is made from cow’s milk obtained from two milking a day; the milk is left to stand and then partially skimmed. It is then poured into cauldrons and the cheese-maker adds just the right amount of whey starter culture as it reaches a temperature of 20°C. Calf rennet is added at 31-33°C.