Gorgonzola is a pale, creamy (48% fat), Italian cheese threaded with veins of green mould*. The cheese was originally known as green stracchino but was given the name Gorgonzola in 1955, after the name of a village through which herds of dairy cows passed on their way down from the mountain pastures. (Stracce means tired from a journey. It could be that the milk was 'tired', or not best quality at this time in the season, hence the name.) It is made from full fat unpasteurised milk from cows reared the regions of Lombardy or Piedmont. The flavour is fairly sweet but piquant and the soft texture makes the cheese spreadable. It is truly delicious, either eaten alone or incorporated into sauces and served with pasta.
The origins of the veined cheese are unknown - there seems to be evidence of a similar cheese being consumed as far back in time as the Roman Empire. Others suggest it originated somewhere between the 9th and 12th century. Legend has it that an inkeeper served a mouldy stracchino cheese to his customers and rather than send it back to their host they actually enjoyed its unusual flavour - thus began the process of inocculating cheese with mould. (A non-veined variety of Gorgonzola called panerone is still to this day made in Lombardy - this is presumably the type of cheese that the innkeeper originally served to his customers!)
The production of the cheese is rather specialised. The curds are made with rennet in the usual way, then the warm curds from the morning's milking are layered around the edges of a circular canvas-lined mould ( 30cm diameter and 20cm high). Cold curds from the evening's milking are put into the centre and the whole thing is left to drain for 24 hours. After this the cheese is removed from the mould but left wrapped in canvas, salted, and allowed mature for up to 2 months while turning regularly. After the first maturation stage, holes are made in the cheese allowing air to enter and enabling the green mould to grow. After another few weeks the cheese is ready to eat.
Gorgonzola is exported all over the world.
*It seems that the mould used is Penicillium roqueforte. Originally the mould would have been present in the ripening rooms rather than added to the cheese, but this produced variable results unsuitable for commercial manufacture. There are 3 strains of Penicillium roqueforte, each produces different combinations of chemical changes in the ripening product and therefore a different type of Gorgonzola. Two strains of bacteria, L. bulgaricus and St. thermophilus, are also required for the first stage of maturation in this complex process.
sneff, who provided a couple of extras
vorbis for the translation of 'stracche'