FRANKLIN, Benjamin (1706-1790), Signer (Pennsylvania). Autograph manuscript, entitled "Manner of Making the Parmesan Cheese," sent to his good friend Catharine Ray Greene, wife of Rhode Island Governor William Greene (1731-1809). N.p., n.d. [London, January 13, 1772]. 3 pages, folio, 326 x 201 mm., paper watermarked "J Whatman," originally folded twice horizontally with slight separations, small losses at edges of folds and to page 3 along one fold (not seriously affecting legibility), a few minor (cheese?) stains. Endorsed on verso "Parmesan Cheese, Sent by Doctr. Franklin to Gov. Greene of Rhode Island." Also signed by "Ray Greene" and "Celia Greene" (Catharine's children).
FRANKLIN REVEALS THE SECRET OF MAKING ITALIAN PARMESAN CHEESE
An highly unusual manuscript reflecting Franklin's keen interest in the domestic arts and agricultural subjects as well as pure science. He sends Catharine Ray the laborious "recipe" for the "Manner of making the Parmesan Cheese," which he carefully observed on a farm near Milan, Italy. The recipe originally accompanied a letter dated 13 January, known from Franklin's draft (Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society). There, Franklin wrote: "I Send you a Copy of the Receipt, hoping that you may be a means of introducing so valuable a Manufacture into your Country." He points out that the cream was saved separately "& thence the farm affords more butter...After a few experiments I think you will succeed in it..." He also sent with the letter and recipe "a Piece of right Parmesan, that you may be acquainted with it, and know when you have hit it." (Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence 1755-1790, ed. W.G. Roelker, pp.44-45) Her correspondence with Franklin reveals a long and devoted friendship. Caty was a friend of Franklin's sister, Jane Mecom and both idolized Franklin. Caty was interested in cheese-making and had sent Franklin several cheeses from her own cows. The recipe for parmesan would have been of the greatest interest to her as a farmer's wife, particularly as cheese was the best money crop of the Rhode Island farmer. Franklin suggested (but crossed out) the hope that by the manufacture of cheese from this recipe Rhode Island might become famous. He knew, of course, that cheese was one of the few products which the Colony could export in quantity. There was, therefore, real merit in this apparently "frivolous suggestion." (ibid.)
Excerpts from Franklin's lengthy recipe follow: "Manner of making the Parmesan Cheese. The Parmesan Cheese...is solely the produce of the state of Milan, & especially of the Country betwixt Placentia & Milan; that made near Lodi is the most esteemed. -- The following Account is given from an Observation...The Milk of fourscore Cows...was skimm'd...; then the skim'd Milk [was]...put together in a large Copper Vessel...This Vessel was suspended by an Iron Rod turning on an Axis...The Milk was then made blood warm,...rennet was put to it ...After waiting an hour...the Curd was tender...about a fifth part of the Whey was taken off & put by in a large pail, after which the Vessel was again placed upon the fire...during all this time one of the people was constantly employed in stirring & breaking down the Curd...a quantity of powdered Saffron was put in...sufficient to give the Whey the Tinge of a high coloured Parmesan Cheese...We observed that during this process, the Curd underwent a considerable Change...we also thought that the Whey in heating acquired the peculiar smell of parmesan Cheese...it being still pretty hot, a quantity of the cold whey...was poured on the Curd, by which it was cooled, so as to allow a person to raise it...in the form of a Cheese...it was placed in the Mould...The ordinary size of the Cheese...is from two to three feet in diameter, & six to eight Inches in thickness...Franklin details the pressing, salting, waxing and storage of the cheese in "a tolerable cool place." He explains that "the Cheese at that farm weigh from fourscore to one hundred & thirty pounds," and "are sold for eighty or ninety Milanese Livres...Men were employed entirely to conduct the Business of the farm, & we saw them also make butter from the Cream they had taken off the Milk..., [and] they put pieces of Ice in with the Cream, as the weather was exceedingly hot....each farmer has his Ice house; in Winter they put in warm water in place of it."