Grana is a type of Italian cheese made from cow's milk. Grated or served as a table cheese, it is used in many traditional Italian meals. It has a hard, granular texture and is made in the form of a large drum.
The word Grana is Italian for grain. The cheese variety is named as such for its granular texture. Grana cheese was originally made by monks hundreds of years ago in order to preserve extra milk produced. Its first use was in the Po Valley during the 13th century. In modern times, the word Grana is usually used as an abbreviation for the semi-fat cheese, Grana Padano.
Pale yellow in color, the cheese has a delicate flavor. The product is typically cut and sold in wedges. Though grainy, it is also considered a smooth cheese. When sectioned, the cheese is split gently with a blunt knife rather than being harshly cut or sawed, leaving smooth edges.
Several forms of Grana hard cheese exist. The two most popular forms are Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano. Other types include Granone Lodigiano or Tipico Lodigiano, Gransardo, and Trentingrana. The main differences between these types of cheeses are their place of origin.
Cows that the cheeses come from are regulated with strict guidelines to ensure the finest products. The cows used to produce the cheese are only fed grass and cereal. No antibiotics or preservatives may be given to these animals; if they are given any of these substances, their milk can no longer be used in making the cheese.
One type of Lodigiano cheese that is considered a delicacy is Bella Lodi. This type of intense, flavorful white cheese that is matured and features a black rind. This classic Lodigiano cheese is famous for being used in traditional Milanese risotto. The recipe calls for the cheese as well as fried onion, saffron, beef stock, and fine rice.
Padano cheese is especially good for grating, which makes it a popular accompaniment for pasta and salads. It can also be melted for cooking. It is aged less than its Parmigiano counterpart, for only up to four years. It is also less expensive and more readily available. Parmigiano-Reggiano is only produced during a short period each year.
To be a true Pedano cheese, a product must be labeled as certified by the Consorzio as a true Grana Pedano product. Other brands containing the word are considered either purposely mislabeled or incorrectly labeled. The true Italian cheese is said to literally melt in the mouth.