Photo by Janelle Jones
Italians sure know how to make some damn fine cheese. You have already learned about such wonders as Parmigiano Reggiano and Taleggio. Today, we will explore the wondrous world of Gorgonzola.You may have seen this beasty blue on pizza, or even slathered on a cheesesteak. What you might not know about this cheese—most commonly seen in either its dolce (sweet) form or a piccante (spicy) version—is that it's hella good and hella old. Rumored to be one of the oldest blue cheeses in the world, this accidental creation is fabled to have been born from an oversight wherein a young buck of a cheesemaker left his duties to go flirt with some chick. And like all casual encounters of the physical persuasion, there was probably a lot of awkward fondling and eventual disappointment. What happened to the cheese that day, however, was something really special. The traditional process of Gorgonzola was that the evening cheese yield would be drained out (the whey removed from the curd) and left to hang out overnight so that more draining would take place. The next day's cheesemaking would be added to the previous nights curds, and blamo—after some time you had this beautifully marbled blue. So this young Casanova left the curds to drain a bit too long, and then maybe tried to cover his tracks with a little mixing it up in the morning's make….And thus we have tradition. Gotta love the Italians.Gorgonzola is protected by both a consortium (a gang of folk who keep this shit on lock) and regional protection called DOP. Whether it's the aged-out form, known as piccante or "mountain," or the dolce variety, this highly controlled lactic substance can only be made in either the Lombardy or Piedmont regions. While the piccante is fudgy and dense with the warm heat of pepper, the dolce is seductively creamy with a fungal sweetness.There is another fabled version of Gorgonzola's conception. On the annual summer shepherd's voyage known as transhumance, when shepherds take their flocks from the low valleys and up to the green lush pastures of the surrounding mountains, they passed through the town of Gorgonzola. These hefty heifers would need to be milked along the way, and the surplus of milk would be traded in the town.So, while the history is a tad varied—we all know that Italians like to keep their secrets close—this is one fucking good blue cheese and will most likely get you laid. Just like that young cheese maker.