Gorgonzola – Sweet or Spicy, always a lady
The perfume permeates the air and conjures memories of that soft, voluptuous texture. A warm, persistent and satisfying embrace, velvety smooth and a distinct personality that accentuates instead of dominating. With age, the creamy white color becomes slightly darker, the supple texture transforms ever so slightly, perhaps dryer but sensual just the same, a more distinct personality arises still complimentary but less yielding. This could be the description of a beautiful woman but I am talking about Gorgonzola cheese.
I lived in Milan when I first arrived in Italy. I had seen fog before, in the early morning hovering just over the water but not expanding past the banks, on the Chattahoochee river during our 5 day tubing trips in the summer. Fog is prevalent in the early winter in Lombardia and I was fascinated. I would take the metro out to a little town called Gorgonzola outside the city at about 8:00 in the evening. The fog was so dense you could not see your outstretched hand. I felt like I was wrapped in an immense blanket.
Little did I know that I was in the reputed birthplace of a marvelous cheese. This is an antique cheese. The most reliable story indicates that it was first produced in 879 AD in the small town of Gorgonzola. Then it was called “Stracchino di Gorgonzola”. Over the years it became a synonym for Stracchino Verde, green aged cheese. It is thought that the method of production was brought back from the pre-Alps area when the herds returned to the flatlands after a summer in the cooler mountain regions.
Gorgonzola is produced widely in Lombardia and Piemonte but the largest quantities are produced in the town of Gorgonzola. Law dictates both the method and geography of production guaranteeing a certain uniformity of quality and taste. Gorgonzola is a favorite in England, Germany and France. The English prefer the sweet Gorgonzola while the French and Germans prefer the spicy Gorgonzola. The sweet Gorgonzola is young, soft, creamy and the green mold is less developed while the spicy Gorgonzola is aged, compact, with a distinct spicy flavor from the more developed green mold.
The US is quickly becoming one of the major markets for Gorgonzola with 350 tons sold in 2003. Unfortunately only the best stores have both the sweet and spicy versions. Most stores will have the spicy Gorgonzola because it has a longer shelf life. I prefer the sweet version of Gorgonzola, both as a standalone dish and for sauces and risotto. I would only use the spicy for salads.
As a standalone try the sweet Gorgonzola on a plate with a bit of honey on the side and fresh bread and a medium structured wine such as a Chianti or Rosso di Montalcino. The spicy Gorgonzola requires a more structured wine. In this case, Barbaresco, Barolo, or Brunello di Montalcino are appropriate.
Raffaella does many dishes with Gorgonzola; one of my favorites is Ravioli a Gorgonzola e Noci, or Ravioli with Gorgonzola and Walnuts.
The Consortium of Gorgonzola Producers will be present at the Fancy Food Tradeshow in New York from the 9th to the 11th of July, 2006.
Tags: Cheese Milan Gorganzola Food and Wine Lombardia Italy