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Provolone Valpadana (Valpadana = Po River Valley, Northern Italy) is an Italian pasta-filata cheese which carries the DOC [Denominazione di Origine Controllata (controlled designation of origin)] label.
The most classic type has a cylindrical form and is usually rather big; the other common type has the form of a mandarin orange or pear. The weight of the loaves varies from a few hundred grams up to 10 kilograms (from about a pound to over 20 lb.) for the short-time aged cheese and from some kilograms up to 100 kilograms (over 200 lb.) for the Provolone which is aged for a longer time.
Provolone Valpadana is produced using modern technology informed by traditional esthetic judgment. The production of the cheese begins with the milk of Holstein cows that were reared in the Po River Valley.
The first step of the process is the production of the curd: to heated milk, first, the so-called "sieroinnesto" (whey starter, a residue from the day before) is added and then the rennet (a natural coagulant which can be taken from calf, lamb or [goat] kid).
The curd is then matured until a viscous dough is obtained. This dough is portioned with a machine under constant monitoring. The loaves are then kneaded, keeping the surface plain and avoiding the formation of air bubbles in the inside, which would impair the quality of the cheese.
As soon as the loaves are ready, they are put for some hours in cold water, where they solidify. Then follow the salting (immersion in brine) and the maturing in an atmosphere with controlled air humidity and temperature, in which the cheeses are hung up, bound together with special cords, in appropriate frames.
Depending on the produced type of Provolone Valpadana, the maturing can last from a minimum of 10 days up to over a year. Finally, straw yellow, round and soft cheeses are obtained, although the exact forms may vary. Also, two different types of Provolone can be produced: a mild and a sharp one. For the latter, a maturing of a minimum of 16 months is necessary, for mild Provolone only a reduced maturing of a minimum of 3 months.