03 May Gorgonzola (D.O.P.)
Gorgonzola is a straw-white, soft cheese with greenish streaks deriving from a process called ‘erborinatura’ in Italian, that is the creation of moulds. This cheese is creamy and soft, with a peculiar, typical taste. Soft gorgonzola cheese is slightly spicy; spicy gorgonzola, whose curd is more blue-veined, is thicker and more crumbly. Both types of Gorgonzola cheese are produced with pasteurised milk coming from cattle stations placed in the origin area, milk enzymes, and selected moulds giving the cheese its peculiar streaks. Maturing lasts at least 50 days for softer types, and more than 80 days for spicy Gorgonzola.
Gorgonzola is a very ancient cheese. Some say Gorgonzola was first produced in the town of Gorgonzola, near Milan, in the year 879 AD. Some other say that it was first produced in Pasturo nella Valsassina, a great cheese-making area for centuries, due to the presence of excellent natural caves where the average temperature is constantly between 6°C and 12°C. Therefore, this allows perfect making of Gorgonzola as well as several other cheeses.
In any case, the town of Gorgonzola remained the most famous place, although it was not the main production or trade centre for various centuries. In fact, the real Gorgonzola’s first name was “stracchino di Gorgonzola”, later better defined with the synonym “green stracchino”. In this context, this cheese was certainly produced with autumn milking when cows returned from mountain pastures.
Gorgonzola constantly spread in both Lombardy and Piedmont regions, though slowly if compared with other cheeses: Pavia and Novara joined Milan and Como areas in the production of Gorgonzola. The area to be defined by the 1955 and 1977 Decrees was thus already operating as a production and maturing area of Gorgonzola cheese, whose designation was protected at that point.
Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the success of Gorgonzola cheese has been growing – especially abroad – with an export record of more than ten thousand tons per year to the UK, France, and Germany. British consumers prefer white, soft, slightly spicy Gorgonzola, whereas the French and Germans specifically order blue-veined, strong Gorgonzola, the so-called “two-curds cheese”.
Immediately after the Second World War, a new technique was implemented: “one-curd” processing. This new production system replaced the previous, empirical procedures, which were significantly more expensive as well as more hygienically and qualitatively inconsistent. Cheese factories and the many creameries spread all over the Po River Valley collect milk from farms and produce cheese, which is then transferred to the main maturing units. During the 1970s, the more than 100 cheese factories had to modernize their production plants and various small production units had to fold up, as they could not bear the costs. At present, approximately thirty well-structured large and medium-size companies process milk and mature gorgonzola cheese in their modern plants.
Approximately 30% (16,000 tons) is exported. Germany and France are the main consumer countries, absorbing more than 50% of overall export. Switzerland, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, and Spain follow in Europe; then, the USA and Canada. Significant signals also come from the Far East and Australia: Japan and China are the countries where Italian cheeses are most successful. In particular, Gorgonzola cheese consumption has grown from a few dozen tons imported until the 1990s to over 400 tons recently and is one of the most exported cow-milk cheeses from Italy.
How to recognise it?
Gorgonzola rounds are marked at the origin on both flat faces. Consumers may recognise the cheese when they buy it by the brand printed on the aluminium sheet wrapping the cheese, which is exclusively assigned to the producers authorised by the Consortium.
Recipes? Gorgonzola is increasingly becoming a source of inspiration for chefs and gourmets, as it is more and more a “whole meal” cheese. In numberless recipes, the taste of Gorgonzola cheese offers its unmistakable touch to appetisers, pasta and rice courses, main courses, and even desserts, and specific tasting sessions are also organised. You can find a lot of interesting recipes here.