Azienda Igricola Iris - Organic, GM Free Parmesan
In the traditional heartland of Parmesan making, the rolling foothills of the Parma Apennines, lies the second dairy where we buy cheese. The tiny hamlet of Rivalta (350 slm) is home to Azienda Agricola Iris, owned by Umberto Avanzini, his wife Carolina and son Davide. They have 120 cows and produce 3-4 wheels of Parmesan a day, all of which are aged in the village.
At the time of our first visit there, we were becoming increasingly interested in finding a fantastic Parmesan made from herds other than the ubiquitous Friesian. The indigenous breeds in Emilia Romagna, the Vacca Rossa, Parmigiana, Bianca val Padana and Montanara have little future as economically viable alternatives to the Friesian, which can produce as much as 50 ltrs of milk a day.
The Swiss Brown however, a hardy mountain breed introduced last century from Switzerland and highly prized for the quality of its milk, can just about compete. It produces a lot less milk than the Friesian, but due to higher fat and casein levels, proportionally more cheese can be made from the same quantity of Swiss Brown milk. They adapt better to the Apennine environment, and live a lot longer than the Friesian. Currently, only some 9% of Parmesan cows are Swiss Brown but at Azienda Iris they make up approximately 50% of the herd.