Gorgonzola is a soft cheese that is straw white in colour. Its green marks are the result of the veining process, in other words the formation of mould.
Gorgonzola ‘dolce’ is creamy and soft with a particularly characteristic, slightly tangy flavour, and Gorgonzola ‘piccante’, with more veins, is consistent and crumbly and has a more decisive, stronger flavour that is easily recognisable. Both are produced using pasteurised milk (whole milk) that comes from the zone of origin, with the addition of lactic acid bacteria and selected moulds that give the Gorgonzola its characteristic veins.
Gorgonzola dolce is aged for at least 50 days, while Gorgonzola piccante is aged for 80 days.
It seems that it was called “stracchino” in ancient times, and its date of birth is very uncertain; some considerations take the production of this “stracchino from Gorgonzola” back to even older times. The word “stracchino” derives from “stracco”, which means tired, and in the Roman empire it referred to the transhumance of herds of cows from the Alps to the water meadows of the Padua Valley, which were blooming as a result of the monks and friars who rationalised the agriculture of that time.
Legally and traditionally, only two Italian regions can produce Gorgonzola cheese, and only these provinces: Novara, Vercelli, Cuneo, Biella, Verbano Cusio Ossola and the land of Casale Monferrato in Piedmont and Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Monza, Pavia and Varese in Lombardy.
Only fresh milk, collected daily in the zones of origin, can be used to produce Gorgonzola DOP cheese, guaranteeing a unique product that can be traced back to the raw material used to make it. Today Gorgonzola cheese is now produced by approximately 36 cheese factories, in plants that process the milk as indicated by current hygiene and health standards. The cheese factories are equipped with laboratories, and they add the care and experience demanded by a product that requires a significant amount of manual work and inspections.
Gorgonzola cheese is obtained from pasteurised whole milk that is poured into vats at a temperature of around 30°, to which lactic acid bacteria, rennet and penicillin spores are then added. When it has coagulated, the rennet is broken and placed onto a special table which lets the whey flow out. After a few minutes the cheese is placed into moulds that hold about 14/15 kg each, and is then stratified and left so that the whey can exit. The rounds, which are still in the moulds, are then overturned and this is when the cheese receives its origin marking: a brand with the identification number of each dairy is placed below each wheel, in order to identify the producer. After another pause the round is turned again and marked on the other side. It then follows the “purgatory” road (fridges at 18/24°C and high humidity), where it is expertly salted all over and left to ripen, after 3-4 days, in refrigerators at a temperature of 2/7°C and humidity at 85/99%. When the round is between three and four weeks old, it is pierced by large metal needles on both flat sides, allowing the air to enter and develop the cultures that had started growing in the vat. When the air enters, the optimal and natural conditions for the growth of the characteristic mould are obtained, and this is where the blue/green veins that make Gorgonzola cheese unmistakable and unique come from. When ripening has ended, the round is removed from its mould, where it normally remains for two months in the refrigerators, and it is then cut into two pieces or more. Each part is wrapped on one side with rough aluminium foil (with the characteristic “CG” of the Consortium impressed on the aluminium), the function of which is to guarantee typicality, reduce the decrease caused by evaporation, protect the rind from breakage and wrinkles, and protect the precious organoleptic characteristics of the cheese during transport and over time.
Gorgonzola ‘piccante’ is different from ‘dolce’ mainly because of its blue/green veins, which are more marked, its consistent and crumbly texture and its more decisive and stronger flavour; this type of cheese not only requires longer aging but also the introduction of different cultures of penicillin while the milk is being processed.
Gorgonzola is a veined cheese, made only with milk from the “DOP” area. Around 100 kg of milk is needed to make a round, which weighs around 12 kg when mature. Gorgonzola has a high mineral and vitamin content. As an example, 100 g of product has an energy value of 314 kcal, equal to 1299 kJ. It is also confirmed that, in comparison with fermented cheese, the flavour and particular aroma of Gorgonzola activates the senses. This stimulates the secretion of bile and pancreatic juices, which favours the digestion of fats and protein.
ON THE TABLE
Each season has its own food combinations: with raw vegetables (celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes), or on salad after making a delicate salad dressing. Ideal also with cooked vegetables (potatoes, pumpkins, broccoli, courgettes). Try Gorgonzola ‘piccante’ in particular with seasonal fruit (figs, pears, apples, kiwi, strawberries), or even with dried fruit, but above all with various types of marmalade, mostarda with mixed fruit or chestnuts or figs, and with vegetable sauces (red onion sauce). Finally with honey, best if acacia or mixed flower.
There are more than 1800 farms spread around the territory of the consortium that supply fresh milk daily, which is then used to produce Gorgonzola DOP cheese. Today’s total yearly production is around 4 and a half million rounds, for a total of about 5,400,000 kg of product; the turnover for consumption is more than 720 million Euro. Around 33% (1,800,000 kg) is exported. The traditional foreign countries that consume most Gorgonzola are Germany and France, which absorb more than 50% of the total amount exported.