What about Leonardo?
»I took two weeks of vacation in my life, the ones in which we were renovating the Casearia«. Leonardo is a kind, thin man in his late sixties. His thinning grey hair and fair complexion reveal he does not spend too much time outside in the sun, yet his grey eyes, hidden behind frameless eyeglasses, are lively and warm.
For three generations his family produces Parmigiano Reggiano, and everything is still done exactly in the same way, at the Casearia Corradi in Noceta, a small town outside of Parma.
In around two hours Leonardo guided us through the different phases of making this 30 kilos solid feast of calcium and flavors. All the steps are still carried on fully by hand, for example using a long wooden pole with metal rings to break the curds, which somehow reminded me of an over-sized kitchen tool. Or the lifting of the lump of cheese which precipitated at the bottom of the giant copper cones, done with expert arms movements and large wooden spoons. And the cutting of the lump in two equal sizes, done by two men with their arms fully immersed in the 55 degrees serum.
Ensuring the quality and taste is consistently high is an art requiring continuous monitoring and adaptations. »If I make any minimal change in ingredients or process, said Leonardo looking thoughtful, »I will only know in 24 months if I made the right choice«. Trying it earlier than the ripening time would not work. Since the time of his great grandfather, any choice is recorded on special registries. »This is how I can perfect the recipe over time«, Leonardo with a proud smile.
Making Parmigiano is not a hobby, it is truly a lifetime dedication: »You can’t simply take a day off«, Leonardo explains, »each day milk comes in, weekends and holidays included. A day is marked by precise moments which can’t be skipped or postponed: receiving the fresh milk from the nearby farms, change the bands of freshly coagulated forms, turning all wheels soaked in brine. Add then the periodic turning and brushing of Parmigiano forms which are seasoning inside the cellar, and you realize how time for holidays is rare, even if Leonardo can also count on his younger brother, Pierangelo, who has the same dedication to the product.