day 69-Gorgonzola Naturale


I’m happy to report that my fridge is working- all the cheese appears to have made it. That’s a relief!  I’m still feeling a little blue about yesterday’s Roquefort.  I felt so much anticipation for that cheese.  Truly one of the world’s great cheeses-but I just couldn’t stomach it.  At times I feel torn between my love of the story of a cheese, and my stubborn taste buds’ refusal to yield to its purported deliciousness.  However, in the end, I must be true to my tongue.  Hence, I am also feeling uneasy about the third in my blue triumvirate- Gorgonzola.  If a cheese could threaten by name alone, it would be this one. I mean really, Gorgonzola?  Will it turn me to stone if I don’t like it?

Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese made of either cow or goat milk-mine today is the more common cow.  It’s another legendary and ancient cheese-at least 1200 years old. Gorgonzola is produced in the Piedmonte and  Lombardy regions in Italy, and originally came from the town of Gorgonzola. This town was a resting place for shepherds and their herds during the summer.  While chilling out in Gorgonzola they needed to figure out what to do with all the extra milk. A strain of Penicillum Glaucum mould naturally occurring in the area was discovered.  By happy coincidence it seemed to be just what they were looking for to put that zip in their excess milk.  Thus,  Stilton and Roquefort share the same mould, but Gorgonzola has its own.

Like Roquefort, Gorgonzola also has its own shepherd-based origin legend. A distracted and love-struck young shepherd left some moist cheese curd hanging from a damp cave at night.  When he realized his heinous error he tried to cover up by adding this curd to the next day’s batch of cheese.  Weeks later, when he checked the cheese-something weird had happened.  It was all green and mouldy inside, but being in love and intrepid, he tried it, and liked it!  Which is definitive proof that caves, cheese, and distracted shepherds can lead to all sorts of delightful hijinks.

People loved this um, enhanced cheese more than the plain old cheese they had been eating, and the tradition began.  Today there are about 40 producers of Gorgonzola, most of it is factory produced.  Gorgonzola comes in two varieties: Dolce and Naturale. The Dolce (sweet) is a  younger version developed chiefly for export after WW2.  Old school Gorgonzola is the Naturale (natural) or mountain.  This is the stronger and more aged version.  It can be made from either raw or pasteurized milk. After the young Gorgonzola has aged for about a month, it is pierced with copper needles-this allows for the air and bacteria to work their magic deep into the cheese body. The cheese is then wrapped in foil to retain moisture and goes on for another 3-6 months of aging.  Unlike humans, Gorgonzola gets firmer as it ripens.

Gorgonzola is a protected name and cheese.  Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Roquefort are the only three cheeses that qualify for this status under the Stresa Convention of 1951. By law Gorgonzola is only produced in a defined area and under the watchful eye of the Consorzio per la tutela del formaggio Gorgonzola.  This consortium was formed in 1970 and safeguards the interest of the cheese and the cheese brand.

My lovely looking slice of Gorgonzola has been keeping me company here as I write.  The paste is a creamy almost translucent white with dark blue/green veins where it was pierced with needles, as well as little splotches of green that occurred all on their own.  It’s not as “blue” looking as yesterday’s Roquefort, and looks quite creamy.  The rind is a thin brownish orange, visible after I peeled back the foil. The smell is relatively mild, it doesn’t reek-really it just smells quite inviting-in a raunchy sort of way.

Here goes…

Spicey, sweet, salty, raunchy-it sounds like a porn star!  Appropriate for my cheese number 69. It’s a sexy cheese, but is actually way milder than I was expecting.  It lacks that “eau de vomit” I experienced with Roquefort. It’s delightfully creamy, not crumbly at all-it would be a challenge to break this cheese up for a salad.  It’s begging for a risotto or a sauce, or some pears, or some close friends.  It’s a well-balanced blue.  The salt is there, but it’s not overpowering the cheese.  The sweet is also dominant, but it’s all wrapped up with a hint of something a little carnal I can’t quite put my finger on.  I like it!  Thank you, lovestruck and distracted Italian shepherd boy.  Bravo.