The origin of Gorgonzola cheese is quite fascinating. The real Gorgonzola’s first name was “stracchino di Gorgonzola”. The word “stracchino”, the name of another widely popular Italian cheese, comes from the adjective “stracco”, that is to say “stanco”, which in italian means “tired”: this because – back in Roman times – in the Lombardy region it was quite common for cow herders to move between the Alpine pasture and the southern lowlands according to the season, the so called transhumance. The cows would need to be milked at different stations along the way and herders soon came to realize that after a long treck, the tired or “stanco”, having essentially undergone some strenuous exercise, would produce a different, more flavorful milk. Another consequence of this cow “migration” was that one such milking stations was near the town of Gorgonzola which would find itself with excess milk twice a year, a quantity too large for its citizens to drink. Gorgonzola cheese was the result of a necessity to store the excess milk. The blueing in Gorgonzola occurs naturally, the mold was typical of the region and to the caves of Valsassina where the cheeses were aged. Today, the bulk of the cheeses are pierced with needles to encourage growth of the mold Penicillium roquefortii.
The origins of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana are strictly tied to that of the water buffalo and its introduction to Italy. One of the most credible hypotheses claims that the buffalo spread throughout southern Italy during the Norman period, beginning in Sicily where the animals were brought – towards the end of the 10th century – following the invasions of the Saracens and the Moors. These peoples introduced the buffalo l and, subsequently they arrived in their current breeding areas. There are those who object that the small ships used by the Arabs were not suitable for transporting the buffalo but such objections can be overridden by the fact that the Arab horse, which was used for the improvement of the equine populations in Italy and Europe, were introduced using the same kind of ship. It is no coincidence that, in the province of Caserta in 1700, the buffalo was commonly referred to as the “Egyptian cow”.
Centuries passed and a massive agrarian reform in Southern Italy cleaned up the marshlands and saw the number of water buffalo and their milk production (the “white gold”) dwindle. Years later, water buffalo where reintroduced but the cheese brought to North America by Italian immigrants in New York in the early 20th century had replaced the recipe with cow’s milk, making cow milk mozzarella extremely popular. But the wonderful original mozzarella di bufala, with its typical taste, still remains an extremely important part of Italian cuisine.
The word mozzarella comes from the verb “mozzare” (to cut off), referring to the manual cut of spun cheese by compressing it between forefinger and the thumb. Mostly known in its typical ball shape, the better way to enjoy its taste is to consume it at room temperature, taking the mozzarella out of the fridge in advance.
The history of Pecorino Romano dates back thousands of years. Even as far back as 48 A.D. Virgil, writing on the topic of nutrition, tells us that the daily consumption allocated to each soldier was 27 grams (about 1 oz) each day.
The ration was included in the staple daily meal, spelt soup, which gave soldiers the energy they needed to face battles and unending journeys in what was, then, the unknown world.
Initially, for the production of Asiago sheep’s milk was used, but from the 1500s, with the gradual increase of cattle farming on the plateau of Asiago, cow’s milk took over in the production process.
Asiago cheese that is produced entirely at an altitude above 600 meters and with milk from farms within this area may also bear the distinction “product of the Mountain”.
Provolone Valpadana means ‘large provola’ (oblong-shaped cheese) produced in Val Padana. The cheese is completely o riginal, distinguishable from other stretched curd cheeses by its large dimensions, capacity to mature for long periods without drying out therefore, not commonly used for grating as opposed to many other aged cheeses.