cheese

A poet's hope: to be,
like some valley cheese,
local, but prized elsewhere.
-- W.H.Auden

Gorgonzola

The town of Gorgonzola (45N32', 9E24') is in the Po river valley in the Lombardy region of Italy, a few dozen kilometers east of Milano. In the 8th century CE, we have the first written records of the item that made the town famous. Ironically, however, Gorgonzola cheese is no longer made in its namesake village.

Blue-veined cheese in general, are at least as old as Roman times, but likely precede that as cheesemaking was common by the second millennium BCE. Blue cheeses are mentioned in Pliny, and Julius Caesar is said to have eaten this type of cheese at Saint-Affrique, France, just west of today's Roquefort.

Gorgonzola cheese is made from cow's milk (unlike Roquefort, which is a sheep cheese). The veins, blue/green/gray, are Penicillin Glaucum, a spore native to the area that would attach to the ripening curds hanging from nets in local caves. Today, the cheese may be made from either pasteurized or raw milk, and is injected with the cultured mold. After about a month, the cheese are pierced with copper needles that allow air flow and encourage the growth of the mold. The cheese is wrapped in foil to preserve moisture and the affinage continues for a total of 3-6 months, typically in 10kg wheels that develop a reddish crust.

Inside, the cheese, which has nearly a 50% fat content, remains creamy white or develops a slight yellowish cast. The flavor is strong, but delightful; sweeter variations are called dolce, whereas the harder most intense version is called naturale, but may also be called Mountain Gorgonzola or picante. Other names associated with the style are erborinato (a generic term for "parsley-green" cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Castelmagno, Cabrales, etc.) and panerone (another Lombardy cheese sometimes referred to as "gorgonzola bianco").

Gorgonzola is one of only three cheeses that qualifies (along with Parmesan and Roquefort), under the Stresa Convention of 1951, to be classified as DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). As such, the sources and processes involved are controlled, and by law Gorgonzola is only produced in a defined area that includes the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Cuneo, Milan, Novara, Pavia, and Vercelli, and in the zone of Casale Monferrato.

The "Consorzio per la tutela del formaggio Gorgonzola" was formed in 1970 to safeguard the interests of the producers, and they typically brand the cheese as a guarantee the genuineness of Gorgonzola product.