That classic of all Italian cheeses, Gorgonzola, dates back as far as the Roman age when in the autumn, 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.
However, Gorgonzola's origin is somewhat clouded in mystery, with two different stories about how it began.
One legend has it that the cheese was created due to the overwhelming number of cows in the area. People near Gorgonzola city had to begin making cheese in order to conserve all the milk that the cows were producing.
A second legend has it that Gorgonzola was the fruit of a romantic escapade of a local cow-herder who, having abandoned his evening’s work at the midway point to spend time in his lover’s arms, added the morning’s curd to that of the previous night creating a cheese that remained soft even when aged.
You can choose to believe either the logical or romantic version of the origin of Gorgonzola. Either way, the cheese's blue veins are arrived at via being punctured with sticks that are placed into the cheese to allow it to dry out. The air channels create space for mold to grow in the cheese, giving it its signature look and flavour.
Today, the city of Gorgonzola still remains the centre 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.
After manufacture, 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 colour and sweet, yet slightly spicy, flavour.