Video: Adding rennet for Parmigiano Reggiano

This is the third part of a video about the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, with (as always) Master Cheesemaker Cristian Pederzoli of the Castellazzo Dairy.

Beneath the video, you’ll find a transcription of the entire interview.

CP: Cristian Pederzoli, Master Cheesemaker at the Castellazzo Dairy.
I: Interviewer, Andrea Bezzecchi.

Video: Adding the rennet to Parmigiano Reggiano

CP: After the addition of whey, rennet is added, which, basically, initiates the cheese-making process. What exactly is rennet? Rennet is an enzyme that is extracted from the stomach of unweaned calves, specifically from the fourth stomach, which we call the abomasum. There are some companies with special facilities where they extract this in a less natural way, by converting it into a powdered product - pellets - , which you dissolve in cold water at a given dosage and mix into the milk - this speeds up the cheese making process considerably.

I: I think it’s important to mention the quantity of milk you’re making here.. because we can’t see inside… we should give an idea of how much is in here, OK? How much, more or less, is in there?

CP: Lets say we put around 12 tonnes in every boiler - that’s about 1200 liters of milk, and each boiler produces 2 batches. So each produces around 6 tonnes.

I: I can see that you’re speeding the movement up quite a bit!

CP: I’m speeding it up because it mixes better if you do. Here we go… adding the rennet… what happens in the boiler after its been added? The casein is actually made up of four different protein types in the form of miscelles that are held together, to all intents and purposes, by a pellicule - a film - which is called a macropepetide. And what exactly does the rennet do? When we add the rennet, it’s to break this pellicule up - binding the casein KK is the most important step in the addition of the four proteins - it increases its specific gravity, and as it falls through the mixture, it attracts the fat and clumps it together - this is the process that’s we refer to as ‘coagulation’.

I: At one time, obviously, the process can’t have been this scientific, so they must have had to ‘follow their noses’ a bit, as the saying goes….

CP: In the old days, there used to be a stirring device, which an assistant Dairyman had to use to keep the milk moving around while someone else added the rennet, to make sure everything was well mixed.

I: What sort of stirring device did they use in those days?

CP: Basically, it was a long wooden handle with a flat end - the sort they used to teach unruly children a quick lesson with, if you know what I mean - and you’d put it onto the base of the boiler, and move it backwards and forwards, mixing it like this.



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