Gorgonzola is known to be a very ancient cheese. In fact, it is one of the oldest blue-veined cheeses we have today, and it was being developed at just about the same time as Roquefort in France but only with a small scale. It is produced mainly in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy.
There was a legend that says a young man in Italy chased after a girl and left his cheese curds overnight. He mixed them in with the new curds in the morning to cover his mistake and accidentally created Gorgonzola.
There are some who believe that Gorgonzola was first produced in the year 879 AD in the town of Gorgonzola, near Milan. While others say it was first produced in Pasturo nella Valsassina which was a great cheese-making area for centuries because they have excellent natural caves where the average temperature is always between 6 degrees Celsius and 12 degrees Celsius, allowing them to perfectly make Gorgonzola and other cheeses.
However, the town of Gorgonzola remained the famous place but it was not the main production or trade center for various centuries. Gorgonzola cheese was originally called “stracchino di Gorgonzola” which means “green stracchino”. The cheese was produced with autumn milking when cows returned from mountain pastures.
Gorgonzola became widespread in the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont but more slowly compared to other cheeses. Later on, Pavia and Novara joined Milan and Como areas in its production.
When the 20th century began, Gorgonzola’s success has been growing especially abroad because of an export record of greater than ten thousand tons per year to the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
After the Second World War, there was a new technique implemented for creating Gorgonzola and it was the “one-curd” processing. This new system replaced the previous, empirical procedures which were more expensive and more hygienically and qualitatively inconsistent. Many cheese factories and creameries around the Po River Valley collect milk from farms and produce cheese. These cheeses are then transferred to the main maturing units.
In the 1970’s, there were more than one hundred cheese factories that had to modernize their production plants and some small production units had to fold up because they were unable to bear the costs. Today, there are about thirty well-structured large and medium-sized companies that process milk and mature Gorgonzola cheese in their modern plants.
The production of Gorgonzola is very heavily controlled to make sure that it conforms to the standards of production. In Italy, it has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
Characteristics of Gorgonzola
Gorgonzola is a blue-veined cheese that has a crumbly and soft texture with a nutty aroma. It is usually made using unskimmed cow’s milk and is rarely made from goat’s milk. But it is much saltier if it’s made with goat’s milk. Depending on its age, it can have a mild to sharp taste.
During its ageing process, metal rods are slotted in and pulled back out, creating airways which let the mold cause the weird veining pattern. Gorgonzola cheese is usually aged between three to four months and is often sold in a foil packaging.
In the United States, there are two types of Gorgonzola cheeses available which are Dolce and Piccante. Dolce is sweet, milky, and creamy with hints of spice. Piccante on the other hand, is more aged, making it more piquant, firmer, and crumblier.
Gorgonzola cheese is one of the best in the world among blue cheeses. And did you know that the London Stock Exchange is nicknamed Gorgonzola Hall because of the greenish marble used in its interior?
There are a lot of ways to consume Gorgonzola because it is available in soft, creamy, and spicy versions. If you prefer to have spicy Gorgonzola, it is best paired with well-structured, valuable, aged red wines such as Cabernet, Carema, Barbaresco, and Gattinara. Soft and creamy Gorgonzola cheeses on the other hand, are best paired with white wines such as Riesling, Pinot Bianco, and Gavi.
For foods, Gorgonzola is best paired with raw vegetables like celery, cherry tomatoes, and radish, or cooked vegetables like potatoes, pumpkins, broccoli, and zucchini. It is also great with fresh fruits like apples, pears, kiwis, and strawberries.
It’s amazing to know that the Gorgonzola cheese we have today was first made in the ancient times. Every time we get a chance to taste it, it’s like tasting history as well.