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The Foundation of Baron Michael Tossizza

The Model Cheese Factory of Metsovo

Address: Metsovo Telephone: 0030.26560.41235

Baron Michael Tossizza, a descendant of the Greek benefactor from Metsovo, acquired a fortune when in Switzerland. However, he had neither been to Greece or could speak the Greek language. Evangelos Averoff, grandnephew of another Greek benefactor, George Averoff, who also had his origins from Metsovo, found Tossizza in Vevey of Switzerland shortly before the Second World War. They exchanged correspondence and Averoff explained to him the severe problems that Metsovo faced as an isolated village up on the mountains of Pindus. As the Baron was already an old man, he announced to Averoff that he was willing to adopt him in order to enable him, as heir of his fortune, to proceed with his plans for the development of Metsovo shortly after the Second World War. However, Evangelos Averoff refused this offer for reasons of principle. Instead, he proposed the establishment of a foundation bearing Tossizza’s name that would proceed, under the guidance of both, with the plans. This is the Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation that was established in the 1948 by the baron himself, with the encouragement and inspiration of Evangelos Averoff – Tossizza, in order to support the economic and cultural development of Metsovo.

The Vision of Evangelos Averoff – Tossizza for a Model Cheese Plant

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Evangelos Averoff – Tossizza’s vision was to create a cheese dairy that would take the shape of a school for the practical art of cheese making, a model for the cheese makers of the region that would provide employment to the local population. Averoff gave several of the young men from the village of Metsovo the chance to go to Italy and learn the art of cheese making. These were the sons of families of herders and stockbreeders who had watched and assisted their fathers in the making of cheese, just as the previous generation had learned from theirs. Their theoretical knowledge, obtained from the famous northern Italian school for the art of cheese making, coupled with the experience they has gained as children, contributed to their becoming consummate cheese makers, many of whom today work and manage their own cheese plants in the region. Among these young men is Apostolis Bissas from Metsovo, who stayed on at the foundation’s cheese factory and still manages it to this day. In 1968, at the age of twenty, he left for Italy and studied at three schools including the famous Lodi School. Young cheese makers from Metsovo succeed in combining the methods of the manufacture of several Italian cheeses with the comparable traditional Greek method, preferring the types of hard cheeses whose requirements suit the milk produced in the region of Metsovo. Thus was born Metsovone, from the Italian equivalent Provolone. The king of the cheeses is considered to be Parmesan, a cheese very rich in flavor and extremely difficult to manufacture, which is not supposedly produced in any other country except for Italy. Natali, the Italian Commissioner of EEC who visited the factory several years ago, and she could not believe that it had such a great taste. It’s a great advantage that the factory is located near the source of the raw materials required, as it has the sheep’ milk needed in the summer, when the flocks return with their herders, especially for the manufacture of Graviera. Other than these, the cheese factory of the Foundation of Baron Michael Tossizza produces Metsovella and Goat Cheese.

The Cheese Making Process of Tossizza Foundation

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Depending on the kind of cheese that will be produced from the cheese factory of the Foundation of Baron Michael Tossizza, the milk is poured into stainless steel pipes and let flow naturally from the pull of gravity to the vats situated on the ground floor below. Famous Metsovone is produced all year round, the sole non-Italian Parmesan is produced from May to September, Metsovella is produced only produced in spring and winter, Graviera is produced May 20 to July 20, when the sheep can graze freely in the region of Metsovo, and Goat Cheese is produced from April to May, when the sheep are fed on the first tender leaves of holly. The production of each of the cheeses required a different percentage of sheep, cow and goat milk and its pasteurization, curdling and break up processes are carried out in vats. The cheese makers use their own strain of culture starters for the curdling process. The entire cheese-making process is kind of a secret, you didn’t expect to revel these mysteries to you, did you|? No one would reveal such a delicate recipe! The cheese factory of Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation know alternative methods that can produce larger quantities, but do not adopt them because this would mean compromising on quality! Rather than overwhelming you with adjectives regarding the cheeses’ taste, aroma and smell, visit the cheese factory and you will fill all the sensations by yourself!

The History of Cheese and Cheese Making

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Man has made cheese from ancient times. According to Greek mythology, Polyphemus, the Cyclops who imprisoned Ulysses in the Odyssey of Homer, was the first cheese maker. Aristotle and Dioscourides gave us the first recipes for the production of cheese who got us acquainted with the fact that the ancient used white “sap” from the branches and fruit of fig trees to curdle their milk. According to Ktissios, Queen Semiramis “did not eat cheese other than that produced from the milk of the white cows” and the Greeks having understood the beneficial qualities of cheese, gave to their wrestlers to improve their stamina. During the Middle Ages, monks made cheese in practically all the monasteries of Europe. Many references attest to the exceptional Parmesan cheese that was eaten in the monastery of Parma to which the cheese obviously owes its name. Until the nineteenth century, methods of cheese making were clearly empirical, passed on from generation to generation, true of every tradition. Louis Pasteur was probably the first person to study the process of fermentation systematically. In 1848, he showed that fermentation is the result of the reaction of a leavening agent, which converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide, a process instigated by live organisms found in the air. He further discovered that heating milk to 112 degrees Celsius sterilizes the liquid by promoting the destruction of any of the harmful organisms. Cheese is the product of the curing of the solid matter of the milk, which is separated from the liquid ‘whey’ by the process of curdling (the addition of agents which sour it and draw out its water). Definition, though clear and concise, simply offers us basic facts that give us the impression that we know something. But “knowing” is one thing while “understanding” is quite another one. The old stockmen used to say “…from the udder’s nipple to the pot…” meaning that the cheese must be made immediately after milking. When it remains untreated, fermentation starts, with the result that the milks sour, goes bad, and is microbiologically suspect and dangerous. Therefore, the cheese factories are obliged to pasteurize our milk when they cannot be absolutely certain of its origin. Pasteurization starts from the minute they begin to heat the milk; if it boils, all the microorganisms needed to make the cheese flavorsome are destroyed along with the deleterious microbes. In the traditional cheese making factories, including the model cheese factory of Metsovo, who knows the origin of their milk, they use slow pasteurization in some circumstances and no pasteurization at all in others. By this way, they manage to attain good taster results by giving flavor and natural aroma to the cheese. It’s such a great advantage for a cheese-making factory to be near the meadows where the animals graze freely, as the milk reaches the plant sooner, and the danger of its spoilage is reduced. The next process is the curdling of the milk, whereby the peasant woman who knows that her milk is pure, and free of microbes, she only adds rennet, which she usually calls magia, the Greek word for magic, presumably because it works like magic! According to an old myth, was discovered from an Arab trader who carried his camel milk in a leather container fashioned from a lamb’s stomach. Upon arriving to this destination, after a long trek in the desert, he found cheese instead of milk in his skin bag! During his journey, the heat and the enzymes from the dried stomach lining had curdled the milk. The flavor and aroma of cheeses made from non-pasteurized milk is natural as the taste depends entirely on the chemical reactions of the organisms already present in the milk. Fermentation begins at the time of milking when the liquid comes in contact with air. The milk, having undergone complete pasteurization, does not contain dangerous microorganisms. Cultured microorganism allies enter like “conquering heroes” and the battle is decided before it’s even begun, as cheese thickens quickly, the salts are added in exact measurements, as are pepper and other spices that give flavor to the cheeses! The next step is the process of “breaking up” or cutting stage. The solid mass is cut in pieces with special tools called curd cutters. In order to make soft cheese, like feta, the cheese makers cut the curd in rectangular pieces. The larger the pieces, the more moisture the cheese contains. When cool, it comes out of the molds and goes to be salted in order to either keep the cheese from turning bad or to enable the cheese to acquire its final flavour. Once salted, the cheeses are transferred dry to the curing rooms whereby the flavor and aroma are completed under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. It’s quite understandable that it takes hard work, time and special care and attention to make a cheese, which make your smack your lips, at the harmony of the natural flavors.

Visiting the Cheese Factory of the Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation

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The visit at the Michael Tossizza’s cheese factory and the initiation into the charming world of cheese takes about forty-five minutes and it is upon request. If you are visiting Metwsovo, do not hesitate to call the cheese factory and make an appointment! It surely is an authentic experience!

The text of the history of cheese making and the history of the Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation was written from the current President of the Foundation, Tassos Averoff, who fulfilled his studies as a chemical engineer at the Metsovian Polytechnic University of Athens, and it was translated from Greece by Jeniffer Michaelides, specialist in cheese eating. All of the information was found on the booklet given to us from Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation