Our cheeses

Generalities


The Tossizza Foundation opened the cheese factory in Metsovo, in 1958. The Foundation was founded by Evangelos Averroff-Tossizza with money inherited from Michael Tossizza, resident of Switzerland and descendent of the well-known Greek benefactor. Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza’s vision was to create a cheese dairy which would take the shape of a school for the practical art of cheese-making - a model for the cheese-makers of the region.. not just a factory to provide employment for the local population.
Averoff gave several of the young men from the village of Metsovo the chance to go to Italy to learn the art of cheese-making. These were the sons of families of herders and stockbreeders who, from a very young age, had watched and assisted their fathers in the making of cheese - just as the previous generation had learned from theirs. The theoretical knowledge which they obtained from the famous northern Italian schools for the art of cheese-making, coupled with the experience they had gained as children, contributed to their becoming consummate cheese makers, many of whom today work and manage their own cheese plants in the region.
"THE MINISTER REACHES OUT FOR INSPIRATION..."




"Greek diplomacy under the aegis and "gidas" (Greek for goats) of Averoff.
"THE 'PASTORAL' OF THE GREEK RADICAL ASSOCIATION"
(GREEK INITIALS:ERE)*

"Apart from the Swiss goats that Averoff imported to Metsovo,he ordered cows from England"

Averoff: Capital idea, Mr. President! The foreigners will see me as a breeder of livestock and not take me seriously. Then, before they know what hit them, I'll butt them with diplomacy!
*The cheese-making activities of Evangelos Averoff during his stint as Foreign Minister in the government of Constantinos Karamanlis, inspired nearly all of the best known cartoonists of the day, such as Fokion Dimitriadis of the newspaper, TA NEA.

As Apostolis says: "Cheese needs to be caressed to be good"
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. His diploma, which decorates his office at the factory, is from the well-known Lodi school. He, however, can be found most of the time with his shirt sleeves rolled up in the areas where the cheese is being made....
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) which many Italians find even tastier than their own.
The king of the cheeses is considered to be PARMESAN - a cheese very rich in flavour and extremely difficult to manufacture. It requires fresh, non-sterilized, cows’ milk and needs two years al least to complete its curing process. This is not supposedly produced in any other country except for Italy.
When our factory was visited by the Italian Commissioner to the EEC, Natali, several years ago, Apostolis turned to him and said in Italian: “ You know, we also make “grana” (as Parmesan is called in Italian). Natali smiled and said to him: “Impossible...” When Apostolis presented him with some cheese, Natali tried it and was beside himself... (so much so, that shortly thereafter he was replaced by another commissioner!). But you will understand just how much effort goes into the making of this cheese as you read on.

It is an advantage that our factory is located near the source of the materials required. At the end of May, all the herders of the area bring their flocks to the mountains around Metsovo from the plains of Thessaly, where they had been wintering since October. Thus, our factory has the sheep’s milk, needed in the summer, especially for the manufacture of GRAVIERA, close at hand.

All year round, the Foundation’s truck starts out at 5:00 in the morning to collect the milk from the herders of the area and eventually finishes its rounds at Ioannina.

The price of milk is subsidized and advances are given to the small herder to help him surmount economic difficulties and to store up on foodstuffs for the winter.
The foundation’s old dairy farm with its 45 prime cows is also located near the cheese factory. In the summer our herds are transported higher, above the plateau or Profitis Elias, to “ Vlaha”, our new and more modern farm. Around this area, there are large stretches of land given over to “free ranging”. We have a close working relationship with the American Farm School of Thessaloniki, which sends us calves to improve the quality of our herds.

Our cows also cover our needs for the production of Parmesan, which requires fresh milk from “two milkings”. The “first” is taken from the evening milking which then rests all night in stainless steel churns to allow the fat to separate naturally from the whey. (From the skimming off of the cream which then rises to the surface, we make our excellent fresh butter -“creamed from the top of fresh cow’s milk”, as we say on our label.) The “second”, morning milking (fresh and warm “from the udder to the vat...”) is then added to that of the evening.

When Apostolis first returned from Italy, he was afraid to risk using the amount of 500kg of milk necessary to make one Parmesan “wheel” weighing 25kg! He said to Averoff: “ I’m afraid I’ll ruin it, Sir.” Averoff answered: “You ruin it; I’ll pay for it...That’s how you’ll learn...”
The Foundation was also built with an eye to attaining a more far-reaching purpose. We wanted to improve the breed of cattle in the region by supplying calves to the local stockbreeders free of charge and by offering the insemination services of a registered corps of bulls! The first cows that Averoff brought over were the Switz breed of Switzerland. Later, he obtained Jersey cows from the stock of Queen Elizabeth of England! He gave each of them the name of a queen and ordered wooden signs from the Foundation’s workshop to adorn the stall of each cow in the barn. Written in large capital letters over each stall were the names Victoria, Mary, Elizabeth, and so forth, and underneath was added: “ Last screwed on... ( the date the event had taken place).” *

* Please accept our apology for the realism of the expression, but the Minister only used language such as this whilst away from his official duties for the government.
He also bought a bull, officially registered when purchased under the name, Prince, which had to be sent to slaughter after the second year because he was driven wild by the Metsovo cows and could not be held back... he nearly tore the barn apart! Averoff’s pride and joy, however, was Minos, a superb specimen in both appearance and performance (despite his pedigree)! Whenever ladies from Athenian society would visit, Averoff would give the order for all the cows to parade in the farmyard’s pen. While his guests looked on, Averoff would whistle furtively and Minos would suddenly charge out and go to it! Averoff was clearly trying to shock his audience, but the ladies, for the most part, exhibited great enthusiasm, several even shouting “Encore!” as though cheering a successful performance at a concert hall.