Croce Grossa Soc. Coop.
Dairy Number: PC552
Via Stradone, 58
29010 - Mercore di Besenzone (PC)
tel. 0523 830006 – fax 0523 830189
We arrive at Croce Grossa dairy where Gianfranco is waiting for us, and as we get out of the car his wife comes to greet us, asking if she should take the potatoes out of the oven because lunch is almost ready. Gianfranco gets up at the crack of dawn, so they have their lunch early here.
With many sacrifices, the husband and wife and an Indian man, run this dairy, whose old original structure has remained unchanged, where their aching arms are only partially assisted by technology in their daily labour.
Their home is fully incorporated into the dairy: the kitchen leads directly to a cellar, and from there into the brining rooms where the tanks are still made of concrete and the cheese wheels are partially immersed in the brine bath and then regularly turned manually (that is, if they actually do it manually) to ensure that the salt is uniformly absorbed. After going through the two rooms used as brining facilities, we reach the 'kitchen' where they make Grana Padano! There are 6 cauldrons here, as well as the traditional tanks for skimming the milk, instead of the silos used in modern cheese factories.
The milk is poured from the truck directly into these tanks and left to rest; then, once the cream has floated to the top, the tap at the lower end of the tank is opened. From here, the milk is drained into the cauldron where two twin wheels are produced. The cheesemaker still carries great responsibility for this part of the process because there is no technology he can rely on to help him.
From the cheese processing room, we move to the ageing storehouse, with all the lovely wheels waiting to be sold, only after they've been left to age for nine months and have undergone the quality checks and the fire-branding.
We stay around a bit and talk about the work involved, a real labour of love, and of the traditions that bond the families of this area.
Gianfranco and Silvana met on the 4th of June 1983, and got married on the 26th of December the same year. Since then, they have never been apart.
Gianfranco tells us how his day is organized and about his many different tasks in addition to cheesemaking.
“In a small-scale business like ours, you need to be able to do all kinds of jobs, so I’m also the plumber, the electrician, the store man, and so on.”
They are getting close to retirement and dream of travelling. The dairy has tied them down for many years but now they'll make up for it.
Silvana remembers the holidays with their young son. Gianfranco would join them at the seaside on his motor-bike: he would get there, have lunch, go for a paddle in the sea and then he'd be off, back to the dairy. She takes the opportunity to remind her husband that during his week off after their wedding, he devoted himself to lots of odd jobs rather than spending time with her!!!!
Gianfranco and Silvana are so lovely and full of smiles that you feel like hugging them and talking to them for hours, but we have to be on our way, so we say good-bye and wish them all the very best!