Oh, I do like a bit of Gorgonzola
The shortest month of the year has been celebrated as a time for feasting since Pagan times, and it’s no coincidence that blue cheeses form a traditional part of these festivities in many countries. Cheeses made in the Autumn have ripened to their seasonal best, and their rich rewarding flavours make a great excuse to enjoy a glass of fortified or sticky wine on a long dark night.
The granddaddy of all blue cheeses made from cows milk is Gorgonzola.
A benchmark that has been famous since at least the 9th century AD, it was originally created from the milk of ‘tired’ cows returning from pastures high in the Italian Alps before the onset of the annual snows. Australia has more than half a dozen blue cheeses adapted from the Gorgonzola recipe, and mid winter is a good time to check them out and perhaps enjoy them with their ancient ancestor.Gorgonzola – Dolce and Piccante Italian Gorgonzola is the ‘original ‘ winter blue cheese and production is strictly controlled. Whilst the name is a guarantee of origin, it is not a guarantee of quality which varies between the 70 different producers. To make matters more confusing there are a number of different types, but Gorgonzola Piccante and Gorgonzola Dolce are the two you are most likely to come across.
Weighing over 12 Kg the large natural rinded wheels are matured side by side in underground cellars, their sides supported by a belt of wooden slats. Gorgonzola Piccante is made from the pre -ripened milk of several milkings, and requires 3- 4 months maturation. Often referred to as ‘mountain’ Gorgonzola its firm moist texture and strong spicy blue flavors are sought after by enthusiasts looking for the authentic cheese.
Gorgonzola DolceGorgonzola Dolce was adapted from the traditional Gorgonzola method almost 70 years ago, and is made only from fresh milk. Maturing in just two months it has a rich sticky creamy texture and slightly sweet blue yeasty finish. These days it has become the most popular of the two and is usually sold in quarters wrapped in thin foil. It is not a good traveller, and should be freshly cut to appreciate its subtleties.
Gippsland Blue Australia ‘s first farm made blue cheese was created in the early 1980’s at Hillcrest Farm in Gippsland, Victoria. Made from Friesian milk the powdery grey rinded wheels are matured in damp underground cellars builtbeneath the cheesery. Mild and creamy with a slight yeasty flavour the texture alters according to seasonal conditions. For a real treat lookout for bulging cheeses with soft creamy spots scattered amongst the chunky lumps of blue mould.
Endeavour BlueDescribed as a ‘gorgonzola type ‘ this is the most complex of any of the blue cheeses made on King Island. It is also the largest of all Australian blues and weighs in at a hefty 8-10 Kg . Beneath its reddish grey rindlies a distinctive creamy texture streaked with steely blue veins. At its best when freshly cut fresh from a whole wheel.
Milawa BlueMade by cheesemaker Steven Russell this natural rinded blue from Victoria is traditionally ripened on wooden pine shelves in the humid maturing rooms of the old brick butter factory at Milawa. Sightly chalky in texture when young it slowly develops a gentle creamy blue flavour which is ideal for beginners.
Stezlecki BlueBlue cheese made from goats milk is rare because the volatile composition of the milk, combined with distinctive ripening action of blue mould can produce very strong and offensive flavours. This unusual bluefrom Tarago River cheese company was developed using similar techniques to Gorgonzola, and its secret is good quality fresh milk, special moulds, and careful timing. Definitely one to enjoy by the use-by- date.