Gorgonzola D.O.P., an uncooked cow’s milk soft cheese, is an Italian excellence appreciated for centuries for its unique versatility and flavour.
The cheese is indeed no less than the third most important D.O.P. cheese in the world, exported to over 90 countries and protected by a consortium that was established in 1970 with that very mission.
Gorgonzola D.O.P. production and processing
The very high quality of this delicacy is guaranteed by a strict legislation that defines every single detail of the processing. Gorgonzola, indeed, can only be made in the area between Piedmont and Lombardy.
The distinctive taste and visual features of Gorgonzola are due to the “erborinato” process, which gives the cheese its typical green streaks. It is from these, so like parsley or erborin in the Milanese dialect, that the term erborinato (marbled) is derived.
Even today, the production process calls for patience and a great deal of manual work. For a cheese of around 12 kg, milk enzymes, rennet and penicillium spores are added. Once coagulated and placed in the moulds, this curd is branded and left to rest.
The cheeses are then moved to special cells known as ‘purgatory’ in which they are salted and matured for three weeks. At the end of this initial maturing, the surface is pierced with metal needles that, allowing air to enter the mould, activate the development of the cultures already in the paste, thus creating the typical moulds. After a further maturation period of two months, the cheese is ready to be packaged and distributed.
Gorgonzola PDO in the kitchen
Thanks to its extreme versatility, this cheese is perfect from appetisers to desserts. The two different varieties are ideal for a wide range of, more or less, unusual combinations.
From nuts and chocolate to fruit, escargots, and avocado, it can even be used in ethnic cuisine and for cocktails!
Before experimenting with the many possible recipes and exploring your imagination, it is good to remember a few small tricks. To enjoy Gorgonzola D.O.P. at its best, it is necessary to remove the rind and let the cheese rest outside the fridge for half an hour because at room temperature it is at its best.
Owing to its intense flavour, Gorgonzola D.O.P. pairs well with soft, full-bodied wines with a certain freshness and flavour.
Passito and liqueur wines are a perfect pairing for the sweet variant of Gorgonzola D.O.P., which also supports botrytized wines. Instead, the spicy type calls for aged red wines of great complexity and structure.
In case you don’t like wine, you can opt for a beer possibly double-malt and with a good alcohol content.
The history of Gorgonzola D.O.P. amid legend and truth
This cheese, initially called ‘stracchino di Gorgonzola’ because it was made from the milk of tired cows (‘stracche‘, in dialect) after transhumance, was born in Gorgonzola, a municipality immediately east of Milan, in 1007.
In fact, the marbled cheese appeared in 1912 on the first-class menus of the Titanic and in the 1940s on a goods train bound for the London House of Commons restaurant. It was probably on this occasion that Churchill tasted what was to become his favourite cheese.
It seems that the British Prime Minister loved Gorgonzola so much that he circled its production area on the map to prevent the cheese factories from being hit during the World War II air raids.
And love is behind the birth of this excellence. Legend has it that a young cheesemaker who was madly in love forgot the equipment needed to process the milk and so decided to leave the curd in a container and mix it with the next day’s curd, once he had recovered his tools.
The two curds, of different consistencies, did not mix properly, allowing air to pass through the interstices and consequently causing the mould that would later become so famous!
¹ more specifically, only milk from the provinces of Novara, Vercelli, Cuneo, Biella, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Monza, Pavia, Varese, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and the Casale Monferrato area can be used.
² moulding consists of the grafting of penicilli cultures into the cheese during processing. Two different variants of Gorgonzola can be obtained depending on the maturing time and the type of penicilli culture that is grafted: one spicy and with a more friable consistency, the other sweet and soft.