Gorgonzola dates back to the Roman age when in the fall the herds of cows would make their way down from the Alps to the valleys of the Po River. They would arrive in the fields near the city of Gorgonzola from the valleys of Bergamo, where they would feed on fresh grass, called quartirola.
It is said that Gorgonzola cheese was created due to the overwhelming number of cows in the area. People near Gorgonzola had to begin making cheese in order to conserve all the milk. However, legend has it that Gorgonzola, which can be traced back to the XV century, was the fruit of a romantic escapade of a cow-herder who, having abandoned his evening’s work midway to spend time in his lover’s arms, added the morning’s curd to that of the previous night creating a cheese that remains soft even when aged. The cheese was punctured with sticks to allow it to dry out. The air channels created space for mold to grow in the cheese, giving it its signature look and flavor.
The city of Gorgonzola remains the center of Gorgonzola cheese production due the availability of milk and the cheese-makers ability to turn what might seem like a defect into a specialty. By law and by tradition, Gorgonzola is made exclusively with milk from cows raised in Piedmont and Lombardy. Since 1996, Gorgonzola has benefited from the Denomination of Protected Origin (DOP) certification.
Gorgonzola is made by heating the milk to 82°-93°F, adding milk enzymes, mold (penicillum) and rennet. After the curd is broken, the cheese mass is left to rest and then lifted out with hemp cloth and left to drip-dry for 12 hours. The cheese is ripened for 5 to 6 days and turned daily. It is salted by hand every other day for 3 weeks. Copper or steel rods are inserted into both the top and bottom of the cheese over the course of 4 to 5 days, allowing for mold to develop. The cheese is then aged for 20 to 30 days in a room with 80% humidity and 43°-50°F. At the end of this process, the cheese will have developed its characteristic blue-marbled color and sweet, yet slightly spicy, flavor.