The Gorgonzola industry is worth over $800 million. Almost 5 million wheels are produced each year, and production is confined to the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, and there are only 29 dairies in the world certified to produce this cheese.
Gorgonzola cheese has a centuries-old history, and it is still done using the same ingredients and techniques that it was decades ago.
Its beautiful marbled interior is given by Penicillium roqueforti, a fungus/mold that is used to ripen the cheese. And this is why, in fact, blue cheese is called so.
We visited Caseificio Si Invernizzi in Trecate, Piedmont, Italy, where between 450 and 500 Gorgonzola wheels are made every day.
“First of all, Gorgonzola was born in Valsassina, so it was born on the Alps, managing director Marco Invernizzi told us. “It started with the “bergamini” families, so shepherds that take cows to pasture, not sheep. My family is among those. So these “bergamini” families started to turn milk into cheese, blue cheese for us. How? Basically, after making the cheese, it was left to age in natural caves. Then cheese was left underground instead. Later on, all Gorgonzola producers moved to the Po Valley where sheds had started to spread and the market was bigger.”
Gorgonzola cheese is made with unskimmed pasteurized cow’s milk, and it can be either mild and creamy or hard and pungent depending on how long it is left to age. The two kinds are easily distinguible by the color of their veins: blue in the creamy and green in the pungent.
“Gorgonzola, and all blue cheeses in general, are special cheeses because they’re neither soft nor hard,” said Invernizzi.”They’re both. In addition, there’s the blue mold, the Penicillium roqueforti, that adds flavor and other differences. This cheese has a lot of structures, also visually. Visually, it’s a beautiful cheese.”
Gorgonzola cheese is protected by the European Union by the “Protected Designation of Origin” scheme. This means that any cheese labeled “Gorgonzola” must meet a particular set of standards and is subject to quality checks. It’s also wrapped in a signature aluminum foil.