In the outskirts of Cameri town, you can find a dairy farm named “Latteria Di Cameri”, which I visited to learn the art of making the Gorgonzola cheese; certainly, one of Italy’s most famous cheeses.
The Gorgonzola is a veined blue cheese of a buttery texture and an ivory color. This cheese is manufactured from cow’s milk in Piedmont and Lombardy areas in North Italy.
In the “Latteria Di Cameri” dairy they make the following cheeses:
Gorgonzola Piccante (spicy), Gorgonzola Dolce (with a hint of mold), Tomme cheese, in its Piedmont version – another cheese veined with blue mold, and Mattonella cheese, an equivalent of the Taleggio.
The cheeses are originally made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk (due to market demand).
The milk is received from 19 farms in the area. The farm owners are also the dairy owners- a unique cooperative for Gorgonzola cheese production.
The dairy was founded in 1914 and is processing 35,000 liters of milk daily.
How you make Gorgonzola cheese:
It starts with pasteurizing the milk, which is then transferred to the cheese-making baths- bowls that contain 600 liters of milk.
Then you add the starter culture (Acidification), adding cultures of blue mold to the milk,
add Rennet (enzyme) and wait for the milk to solidify.
The next stage: cutting the curds with a sword-length knife, a short wait, and another cutting session. Another short wait and a slight gentle stirring.
Then, laying cheesecloth on cheese-making tables made of stainless steel,
and using small bowls transferring the curd cubes to the draining tables for another 20 minutes wait.
On another table preparing the cheese formas (molds in Italian) and using the same small bowls to fill the molds with curds.
After filling the molds, the cheese is transferred to the other side of the room, for a 12 hour wait for a Gorgonzola Dolce, and a 24 hour wait for Gorgonzola Piccante. During this time placing a stencil with the dairy’s number on the cheese; later on the cheese is turned upside down about 6 times and at the end of this process the cheese is stamped.
The next step is wrapping the cheese with a small mat made of thin pieces of wood fastened to the cheese by a rubber band.
The function of this mat is to keep the cheese’s shape and moisture during the ripening process.
The cheese then goes to drying and slating room, where it is salted; The mat is removed, the cheese is rolled on a table with Atlantic sea salt, applying again on the top of the cheese, wrapping it again and it hops straight to the shelf.
This is how with great skill and agility, the cheese is salted.
After the cheese has been salted twice and the cheese maker decides it is dry enough, the process of aging the cheese-aging begins in the ripening rooms.
First in a room of 12 Celsius degrees, and afterwards in a room of 4 Celsius degrees with humidity of 90% for 90 days, as the Gorgonzola cheese-making DOP protocol requires.
During this time the cheese is perforated by a machine with 100 needles. This part of the process is extremely important to promote the growth of the mold in the cheese- through the air channels that are created, the oxygen that helps the mold grow will find its way into the cheese.
This process is also performed twice during the months of ripening.
We continue to visit in the dozens of rooms in the dairy, to see the thousands of cheeses laying on wooden shelves in dark rooms, waiting for the moment they are exposed to the light in the packing rooms, where the wrapping ladies await.
The cheese is sold in several ways:
As a whole 13 Kg wheel, half a wheel, and half a wheel cut into quarters.
The cheese is wrapped in foil paper, and heads out to the markets.
I would like to point out that the entire cheese-making craft is performed by 8 cheese makers in manual labor and craftsmanship.
After the tour, the dairy manager invites us over to the office for a discussion, to provide us with more information and also to ask and inquire about the milk market in our country.
On one of the walls in the room I notice a certificate given to the dairy by Benito Mussolini in 1924.
From here we continue to the aging and ripening rooms of Guffanti Luigi- a cheese cellar that has been operating since 1876…
It is worth waiting!
Yours, Hanan the cheese maker.