It’s not always the case where typical products find their roots in the place where they are more widespread. Sometimes it happens that excellence is born in a very specific place, which over the centuries (or even thousands of years) will not abandon the name, but it finds fertile ground in neighbouring areas, custodians of adoption of precious traditions celebrated worldwide.
The Story of Gorgonzola
This is the story of Gorgonzola. This exceptional product, difficult to compare with other cheeses, is said to appear in nearby Lombardy at the time of Charlemagne, the first to have appreciated the qualities of this unusual “green stracchino”. Even Renzo, in Manzoni’s Promessi Sposi, arrived hungry in an inn between Milan and the town of Gorgonzola, doesn’t resist in eating a delicious stracchino that, by the description given in the book, would remind the famous blue cheese.
In fact, the delicious dairy product would be born as a mistake of a distracted cheese-maker, perhaps in love, who, forgetting to finish the preparation of stracchino, a very common cheese throughout northern Italy, would have created a new unusual product, white in color, but veined with unmistakable green streaks tending to blue.
Gorgonzola, since the dawn of time, was the place of choice to rest the tired cows, “stracche”, in the local dialect. The “stracchino verde”, the mistake of the cheese maker, soon became a food habit, identified for practicality with the name of the place of major production – Gorgonzola. A minor trend, on the other hand, claims that the blue-veined origin is from Pasturo, in Valsassina, a place where the average temperature never goes higher than nine degrees Celsius would offer ideal conditions for the growth of the unmistakable molds.
Over the centuries, in any case, the production, probably due to the progressive passage of the Milanese area from the agricultural area to the industrial and financial pole, has slowly moved westward, into the plains and the gentle slopes of the high mountains, which has always been suited for the production of dairy. Currently, 65% of the production of Gorgonzola is in the province of Novara.
The Consortium for the protection of Gorgonzola
After World War II, a regulatory and protection path for this extraordinary product was initiated. A creation process which is still strongly crafted and that simulated – often in an approximate way – the old mistake of the distracted casaro, has been progressively replaced by an increasingly rigid disciplinary production.
An area of production with too soft borders, has been defined in a rigid way, embracing, in addition to the aforementioned provinces of Milan and Novara, also those of Pavia, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Monza, Varese, Vercelli, Biella, Verbania, Cuneo and in part Alessandria, including the whole Alto Piemonte in the cradle of the precious dairy product.
These important interventions led to the birth, in Novara in the 1970, of the Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese, which, since 1996, boasts the Protected Designation of Origin.
How it’s made?
There are currently 37 companies in the Consortium and only 427 people worldwide are able to produce this cheese, king of international cuisines. A raw soft paste of whole cow’s milk enriched with milk enzymes and molds of Penicillium make it among the most digestible cheeses on the market, rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamins of groups A and B. Starting from a common fat base around 48 % of the whole mass and a background color from white to straw-yellow, there are numerous variations of the product, which make it versatile and suitable for various culinary preparations. Wheels weight and aging time intervene in the final yield: from large wheels (up to 13 kilograms) seasoned at least 50 days for the creamy sweet Gorgonzola, medium-small forms (minimum 6 kilograms) seasoned up to 270 days for the most compact and veined spicy Gorgonzola.
Palzola, as we talked about here, since 1948 produces the Gorgonzola in its many expressions, among which the magnificent trilogy “Dolce – Piccante – Palfuoco (D.O.P.)”, the latter with a sweet base but enriched with a spicy hot pepper.
How to use it in the kitchen?
Endless recipes can be made with these three excellences. The most classic of the versions, the “dessert”, we suggest to combine it with a crumble of Rubatà piemontesi breadsticks and a quick jam of caramelized pears with red wine and honey.
Why, instead, we don’t take advantage of the strong flavor of the spicy for a Piedmontese version of Mac and cheese? Single portions of short pasta in the oven in which the Gorgonzola erborinato enriches both the béchamel and the final gratin.
Finally, we go back to Vercelli for a risotto with garlic, olive oil and Gorgonzola with chilli.
Are you ready to taste all the different versions of this amazing Gorgonzola? You can find them here.
Until next time,