Just accept it, Grana Padano does not receive the accaims it deserves. As far as I know, this is Italy’s most bought cheese, and with a longer history than Parmigiano Reggiano. I frequently use Grana Padano when I need cheese for grating being it risotto or some paste dish. I do not know how it is in your market, but where I live the cheese is overpriced. Too close in appearance to Parmigiano Reggiano, so there is a gamle the consumers regard it as a Parmesan and it is priced accordingly. But still, somewhat cheaper, without that influencing my choice. It’s about variation. And it’s a good cheese.
It’s a monastic cheese
Originally, that means around the former millennium, it started when Cistercian monks built the Chiaravalle abbey in the Po valley. They started to cultivate the land and keep livestock which led to an increase and eventually surplus og milk far exceeding their own and the local community’s needs. Milk was some of the most nutritious foods around during the middle ages, so they decided to start making cheese.
Grana Padano was not a quick fix
There is nothing indicating this was a hard cheese from the beginning. It has gradually evolved into the cheese we know today. It was probably softer and without salt at all. The monks experimented, learned and ended up with a hard cheese that kept well. Over time the cheese has further developed as have the production area. There is a story behind the name as well. Grana is from the texture, grainy as it is and Padano from the plains in the Po valley. Today the productions area has extended to other areas as well, but still just northern Italy.
Grana Padano Trentingrana
Grana Padano Trentingrana is a special variety. You may well say it is better than the others, I have never tasted it, but for obvious reasons it has it’s own certification. It is made in the province of Trento, aka Trevino, specifically in the valley of Val de Non. Easily detected as it has Trenitino brunt into the rind all around. It is said the milk is special in this area which has resulted in this specific branding. It is still a Grana Padano, though.
The basic variety is matured for nine months. This is the cheese that is most commonly available. Nothing wrong with it, just somewhat fresh without any hints of age. Next level has a minimum maturity of 16 months and cheese starts to express itself. The flavour has a touch of sweetness, some hay and milk. A few crystals as well, but you probably have to look just inside the rind to find them.
Also read: Grana Padano vs. Parmigiano Reggiano (Norwegian only)
If the cheese has been matured for more than 20 months it qualifies as a Riserva. That’s the reason for this post. I bought a piece that was matured for 27 months which gave me a tasting experience I have never had before with a Grana Padano. Round and mellow taste with butter, hay and dried fruit flavours. Crunchy from all the tyrosine crystals present. Don’t eat the rind by the way. It is edible, but it gave me some bitterness which does not influence the flavours in positive direction. Enjoy the cheese, but cut away the rind.