Gorgonzola cheese: history, info, interesting facts


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Gorgonzola cheese: history, info, interesting facts

THE HISTORY OF GORGONZOLA CHEESE, INFO AND INTERESTING FACTS. LET’FIND OUT HOW IT’S MADE. LET’S SAVOR ITS CHARM BY VISITING ITS PLACES, MEETING ITS PEOPLE AND LISTENING TO ITS MUSIC. LET’S ENJOY ITS AUTHENTIC FLAVOR THANKS TO ITS MOST TRADITIONAL PRODUCERS.

‘Gorgonzola’ PDO, one of the most known Italian cheeses in the world, takes its name from the Italian city of Gorgonzola, located in the region of Lombardy and generally considered its birthplace. Much of the reputation of this dairy specialty is due to its particular flavor, coming from the edible molds inside its paste. The same molds are also responsible for the typical green/blue streaks. Let’s find out more about this delicacy, discovering how it’s made and many interesting facts, also thanks to the precious collaboration of its most traditional producers, represented by the Consortium for the Protection of the Gorgonzola Cheese.


Gorgonzola: the veined Italian blue cheese (crt-01)

What is Gorgonzola cheese?

Slice of Gorgonzola cheese (crt-01)

‘Gorgonzola’ is one of the Italian dairy specialties most known and appreciated in the world. It’s possible to assume that its birth dates back to the ninth century, in a territory that for some scholars would coincide with the current province of Milan, for others with that of Lecco (*1).
It’s a ‘raw cheese’, produced using a particular technique, inducing the formation of edible molds: these molds strongly influence its flavor and appearance, characterized by the typical green/blue streaks. There are two types of it: the sweet one (soft and creamy) and the spicy one (harder and slightly friable): the latter is more seasoned.
In 1996 the European Union assigned to Gorgonzola the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), formalizing de facto its great qualities.

Note:
*1: Both these cities are located in the Italian region of Lombardy.

The history of Gorgonzola cheese.

There are not many reliable testimonies about the birth of Gorgonzola: it’s generally traced back to the year 1007, during the Middle Ages. Even if this date were not precise, it would be still very useful to understand that this specialty has a thousand-year tradition.
Preparation of cheese, XIV Century (img-02) There are just a few information also about the place of origin of the cheese: a great part of the sources obviously claim that it’s the town of Gorgonzola (hence the name), others suggest
it could be Pasturo, a small town in the province of Lecco, very famous for its ancient dairy tradition (*1). The only certainty is that we are dealing with a very traditional Lombard and Piedmontese product (*2): a product that started to be commercialized thanks to the local river network (*3) and that, over the years, became very famous even outside the Italian peninsula.

Notes:
*1: The Caves of Pasturo, located under the ‘Grigne’ mountains, have always been renowned for their environment, particularly suitable for the maturation of cheeses, both in terms of humidity, temperature and ventilation.
*2: Lombardy is one of the most important Italian regions.
*3: The ‘Navigli’ and the Ticino river.


The ‘Grigne’ mountains (cc-01)

… the legend.

As it happens to many food and wine specialties of ancient traditions, Gorgonzola too has a legend telling its origins. According to this legend, a distracted cheesemaker added fresh curd to some other he had previously prepared and forgotten. After a few days, he realized with great pleasure that he had inadvertently invented a very special type of cheese, whose particular taste derived from a particular kind of molds grown inside of it.

How Gorgonzola cheese is made?

Here follows a list of the steps for the production of Gorgonzola cheese:

01. Fresh whole cow’s milk, as soon as arrives at the dairy, is pasteurized and poured into special tanks.

02. Rennet, lactic ferments and spores of penicillium glaucum (a particular type of mushroom), are added to the milk (*1). The ‘curd’ is formed.


Gorgonzola PDO: cutting of the curd (crt-01) Gorgonzola PDO: cutting of the curd (crt-01)

03. After about twenty minutes, the curd is cut (*2). Its serum is purged using a special inclined plane with drainage holes.


Gorgonzola PDO: the curd in the molds (crt-01) Gorgonzola PDO: the curd in the molds (crt-01)

04. The curd is poured in special molds (in Italian ‘fassiroli’ or ‘fascere’): these are turned by hand. At the end of this step, the dairy id number is stamped on each wheel.

05. The wheels are moved in a special cellar (known as the ‘purgatory’), where they rest at a temperature of 18°/24°C.

06. Inside the same cellar, the wheels are uniformly sprinkled with salt (‘salting’).


Gorgonzola PDO: the seasoning (crt-01) Gorgonzola PDO: the seasoning (crt-01)

07. The wheels mature for about three weeks in cold rooms at a temperature of 2°/7°C, with a humidity of 85/99%.


Gorgonzola PDO: puncturing the cheese (crt-01) Gorgonzola PDO: puncturing the cheese (crt-01)

08. The wheels are punctured: this facilitates the entry of air, leading to the formation of edible molds, from which come the famous green/blue streaks inside the pasta.



Once the seasoning is complete, the wheels are cut into portions: these are wrapped in aluminum foils bearing the logo of the Consortium of Gorgonzola cheese: a large G.
The id number of the cheese factory and the Consortium’s trademarks are distinctive elements of the original Gorgonzola DOP.

Notes:
*1: The preparation method for spicy Gorgonzola differs from that used for the sweet in the use of a different type of penicillium and in a longer seasoning.
*2: Gorgonzola is a ‘raw cheese’ because the curd used for its preparation is not heated (look at step 03).

The ancient production method.

Gorgonzola cheese (crt-01)

The most ancient method to produce Gorgonzola, nowadays no longer used, requires the ‘curd’ to be prepared in the evening and left to drain all night, allowing its contact with the spores needed for the formation of edible molds (the same molds giving the green/blue color to the cheese). The next morning, this curd is poured into forms, alternating it with layers of fresh curd. The rest of the process involves the salting, the drilling (*1) and, finally, the seasoning.

Note:
*1: Drilling the cheese allows air to enter its paste: this air, in contact with the spores, leads to the formation of molds.

Types of Gorgonzola.

According to the procedural guideline for Gorgonzola PDO, there are two main types of this cheese:


Sweet Gorgonzola (crt-01) Sweet Gorgonzola (crt-01)

Sweet: this type is creamy and slightly spicy. Its aging lasts for a minimum of 50 days up to 150.


Spicy Gorgonzola (crt-01) Spicy Gorgonzola (crt-01)

Spicy (*1): this type of cheese, as its name implies, has a much stronger and spicier flavor than the sweet one (in this respect, it’s quite similar to Stilton and Roquefort).
It’s also more solid, almost friable. Its aging lasts for a minimum of 80 days up to 270.

Note:
*1: Also known as ‘Gorgonzola del nonno’ (‘Grandfather’s Gorgonzola’) or ‘Gorgonzola antico’ (‘Ancient Gorgonzola’).

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Production areas.

Gorgonzola cheese: production areas.

According to the policy document of Gorgonzola PDO, this cheese must necessarily be produced in certain provinces (*1) belonging to two Italian regions:
Lombardy: the provinces of Brescia, Bergamo, Cremona, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Monza, Pavia and Varese.
Piedmont: the provinces of Novara, Cuneo, Biella, Vercelli, Verbano Cusio Ossola and the territory of Casale Monferrato.
The first place in quantitative terms goes (by far) to the province of Novara, where Gorgonzola is also known, in the local dialect, as ‘chèga’.

PLEASE NOTE: The original Gonrgonzola PDO must be produced in these provinces, using only whole milk coming from the same areas and following the procedures contained in the official product specification document.

Gorgonzola cheese: the best pairings.

Gorgonzola cheese: the best pairings (crt-01)

Gorgonzola is a type cheese characterized by a unique flavor: this led to unique and almost unexpected parings.
Here follows some examples:

Sweet: mascarpone cheese, pears, walnuts and dried fruit in general.
Spicy: jams, honey, onion sauce.

What is ‘blue cheese’?

Cosa sono i formaggi 'erborinati'? (crt-01)

‘Blue cheeses’ (known in Italy as ‘formaggi erborinati’), are produced using a particular technique inducing the proliferation of a particular type of edible molds. These molds give the product not only a very special flavor but also the typical green/blue streaks.
Some of the most famous blue cheeses in the world are the Italian ‘Gonrgonzola’, the French ‘Roquefort’ and the English ‘Blue Stilton’.


RMS Titanic (img-03) RMS Titanic (img-03)

Gorgonzola cheese and the Titanic.

Thanks to historians, it has been discovered that Gorgonzola, the ‘cheese from Novara’, was one of the delicacies served onboard the RMS Titanic. A first-class menu mentioning it has been found: this is undoubtedly an important testimony, which also shows the great appreciation of the British people for this dairy specialty.


Sir Winston Churchill (img-04) Sir Winston Churchill (img-04)

Sir Winston Churchill loved Gorgonzola.

It’s fascinating to find out that Sir Winston Churchill, the famous English politician, was an enthusiast of Gorgonzola. It is said that his love for this cheese was so great that he prohibited the bombing of the small town of Gorgonzola (and its dairies) during the Second World War.


Gorgonzola in the Titanic’s first-class menu (crt-01)

The Gorgonzola town.

As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, the town of Gorgonzola is generally considered the birthplace of Gorgonzola. Although this may not be true, at least not entirely, this place has certainly played a fundamental role in the history of this cheese. It should not therefore surprise that its original name was ‘Gorgonzola Stracchino’ (or ‘green Stracchino’) (*1).

Note:
*1: The name ‘stracchino’ shows that, in the past, this cheese was produced using the milk of the cows returning from the summer pastures: for this reason, they were very tired, in Lombard dialect ‘stracche’, hence the word.

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The wheel of Gorgonzola cheese (crt-01)

The wheel of Gorgonzola cheese.

The wheel of Gorgonzola cheese has an approximate weight of 12 kilos. The internal part of the sweet type is creamy, whereas the spicy one is harder and almost friable. Both of them have the typical blue/green streaks. The original product is easily recognizable thanks to the foil wrapping the cheese, bearing a great G, the logo of the Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese.

Gorgonzola in video.

Here follows a video showing, step by step, the preparation of Gorgonzola cheese (courtesy of the Consortium for the Protection of the Gorgonzola Cheese)

Gorgonzola: calories and nutritional values (crt-01)

Gorgonzola: calories and nutritional values.

There are around 320 Kcals in 100 grams of Gorgonzola. This cheese contains fats, proteins, salt, calcium and phosphorus. Vitamins A and B are also present (B1, B2, B6, B12).

The Gorgonzola sauce.

One of the most famous specialties based on Gorgonzola is undoubtedly the famous sauce. Its recipe is extremely simple:
Melt some butter in a saucepan;
Add gradually: flour, milk and Gorgonzola.
These ingredients should be mixed to make the cream
The sauce can be used, for example, to garnish croutons or as a sauce for pasta.

The right wine for gorgonzola cheese.

The right wine for Gorgonzola cheese.

The choice of wine to accompany Gorgonzola depends on the type of cheese:
Sweet Gorgonzola: this type goes well with wines with good aromaticity and acidity, characteristics capable of balancing the aromaticity and fatness of the cheese. For example, Riesling and Gewurztraminer (better if late harvest).
Spicy Gorgonzola: its strong taste requires an equally strong wine. Red wines with good alcohol content and structure could be the right choice, for example, Barolo, Amarone or Recioto. Valid alternatives, especially in the case of aged cheese, could be fortified wines (eg Marsala), raisin wines (eg Passito di Pantelleria) or botrytized wines (eg Sauternes).

Logo del Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola (crt-01)

The Protected Designation of Origin and the Consortium.

The denomination ‘Gorzonzola’ was instituted by decree on 30 October 1955: this formal act represented, de facto, the official recognition of a specialty of very ancient origins.
The association of dairies known as the ‘Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese’ was founded in Novara in 1970 (*1), with the task of promoting the product and defending it from the imitation attempts.
In 1996 the European Union included Gorgonzola in the list of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

Address: Via Andrea Costa, 5/c
28100 Novara (Italy)
Website: www.gorgonzola.com
Mail: [email protected], [email protected]
Tel.: +39 0321 626613




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The following images are public domain:

crt-01 (*) – Titanic, first-class menu, 1912 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Tacuina sanitatis (XIV century), cheese (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Titanic at the docks of Southampton, 1912 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – Winston Churchill in Downing Street, 1943 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

The following images are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported:

cc-01 – Grigna mountains. Image belonging to: Luca Casartelli (Wikipedia Link)

The following images are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic:

cc-02 – Gorgonzola – Naviglio Martesana. Image belonging to: Geobia (Wikipedia Link)

The following images are published courtesy of:

crt-01 – Images published courtesy of Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese.

Header images:

Image 01 (*) – Gorgonzola PDO, production areas. Courtesy of the Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese.
Image 02 (*) – Gorgonzola PDO. Courtesy of the Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese.

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.