Parmigiano Reggiano G. Cravero
What else did Brie and I do on our fantastic Italian travels? Well, we visited a man named Giorgio Cravero who ages Parmigiano Reggiano in the town of Bra. I don’t know if a single person in our group left Giorgio’s without falling in love, either with the man or the cheese or probably both. The Cravero family has been aging and selling Parmigiano since the mid-1800s, making Giorgio the fifth generation to carry on the family business. We started our visit on the porch of his house, which is right next to his aging cellars, because he has an amazing view of vineyards, farms of hazelnut trees, and small medieval villages tucked into the foothills of the Italian Alps. He described the variety of agriculture and horticulture, pointing from one farm to the next.
After we oohed and aahed and took too many pictures, Giorgio turned around and quickly jumped down the steps of the porch, bounded across the dirt driveway and led us over to a large copper pot sitting outside a huge wooden door. This door, he told us, was hundreds of years old and it led into his cellar. The copper pot, which he had turned into a small stage by adding a metal platform to the front, had been used to heat milk to make Parmigiano back in his great-great grandfather’s time. One full pot of milk was enough to make one wheel of Parmigiano.
Then, it was time to visit the cellars! In we went, following Giorgio’s bouncy steps and the smell of warm butter, fresh milk, and straw hit my nose. I breathed deep and grinned. Around me, I saw everyone else also inhaling and smiling lazily at each other. After Giorgio and his team visit Parmigiano Reggiano producers and carefully choose the wheels they feel will age best, the cheeses arrive at Giorgio’s cellars to age to about 24 months old. The wheels are flipped and brushed clean, and Giorgio’s team monitors the temperature and humidity of the cellars, but other than that, they wait. It was a calming place in among the shelves of Parmigiano – the complete opposite of the slightly frantic energy of the cheese festival happening in the center of town.
Later, when Brie and I were asking Giorgio about the best way to care for his cheese – which we now have! – he was adamant that we don’t need to worry, that Parmigiano does not need to be coddled; it takes care of itself. Sometimes, I get lost in the cheese world and make cheese into something too precious, so I like to be reminded that in fact, it’s pretty tough stuff, meant to be used and enjoyed, not elevated to saintly status.
The tour ended, naturally, with a taste of Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano and a glass of prosecco, Giorgio’s preferred drink with Parmigiano. It was ten in the morning. However, working at the cheese shop has prepared me for this with staff wine tastings starting at 9am. Thank goodness I was so prepared! The Parmigiano was room temperature so all the flavors were at their peak. It was nutty and a touch sharp, but what really sets the Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano apart is the texture. Rather than dry and crumbly, Giorgio’s cheese is creamier than the average parm, making it the perfect cheese to keep around on the counter for nibbling all day. We hope to keep the wheel of Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano out of the refrigerated cases so that you can experience it like Brie and I did, and, of course, this makes it easier for me to eat and eat and eat, too.
For the love of cheese and Giorgio Cravero,