Produced in both the Piedmonte and Lombardy regions of Italy, Gorgonzola Naturale is a cow's milk blue cheese with a big history.
The town of Gorgonzola was a traditional resting point in the spring and autumn for the herds of cows making their way back and forth between the alpine pastures of Lombardy.
Local farmers took advantage of the surfeit of milk that arrived in the town and used it to make cheese. They also discovered a natural strain of Penicillum Glaucum mold in the area, that, if allowed to develop, caused the cheeses to taste much better than before. Subsequently, they actively encouraged its growth and Gorgonzola was created. Today there are about 40 producers of Gorgonzola Naturale, and Italian law dictates that Gorgonzola can only be made in either Lombardy or Piedmonte.
Gorgonzola is produced in two styles: Dolce and Piccante. Dolce is the younger version that was developed just after WWII. Piccante or Mountain Gorgonzola is the more traditional, matured version. (Gorgonzola Piccante was formerly known as Gorgonzola Naturale or Stagionato.)
Today, the cheese may be made from either pasteurized or raw milk. Traditional artisanal producers use the two day curd method, whereby the inoculation of the milk happens as a result of adding the previous day's curd to the mix. However, the majority now make the cheese in one day and innoculate with a starter culture.
After about a month, wheels are pierced with copper needles that allow the air to penetrate the cheese and the blue veins to develop.
The cheeses are wrapped in foil to preserve moisture and the maturation continues for a total of three to six months, during which time cheeses develop a reddish rind.
The texture of Gorgonzola Naturale is dense, smooth and punctuated with pockets of slightly crunchy crystals contained within the blue veins - especially on more mature cheeses.
The color of the paste is a dark ivory, shot through with fine blue/green/gray
Flavors can be assertive, robust, meaty and spicy. An indicator of the strength of the cheese is the paste of the interior - the darker it is, the stronger it will taste.