Visit to a gorgonzola dairy
The most fascinating thing about a visit to a gorgonzola dairy (apart from the tasting obviously) is the pride and enthusiasm invested in the cheese.
Caseificio Eredi Baruffaldi in the tiny town Castellazzo Novarese 12 km outside Novara in Piedmont is a traditional, Italian, family-run dairy. It started with a great-grandfather, who herded cows on the mountain pastures of Valsassina some 150 years ago, and the interest in milk and cheese making was passed on through the generations. Today the Baruffaldi dairy is owned by two brothers and a sister. Paolo, Rocco and Maria Teresa Baruffaldi run the dairy together, and they are all eager to talk about the ingredients, the production techniques and the taste of their products.
Every day the dairy processes 400 tons milk. The milk is made into a creamy, mild gorgonzola, a strong gorgonzola and a gorgonzola layered with mascarpone. Three products that have been developed and enhanced continuously over the years.
The turn of the cheese
After putting charming blue plastic bags over our hair and feet, we are led into the dairy where a huge multi-purpose boiler heats up the milk to the exact right temperature to promote fermentation. The curd is separated from the whey, cut to create pockets of oxygen, where tasty blue mould can grow, and poured into cylinders for further drainage.
At long tables some of the 30 employees are busy turning the heavy cylinders around, as the gorgonzola gets firmer as it ripens. For an amateur, is seems as if gorgonzola and other kinds cheesemaking is all about patience and cheese turning. The next day the cheese is salted, moved to temperature controlled storage rooms and left for 60 to 80 days depending on the variety. With a few days interval every single one of the cheeses have to be washed and turned in order to control the mould. I guess, some of these workers could feel envious of Sisyphos who at least had the good fortune to work outside in the fresh air, had it not been for their immense pride in producing highly uniform quality products to be sold all over Europe.
The human assembly line
We end up in the packing hall where the aged gorgonzola are quartered and wrapped up in aluminum foil and placed in a plastic container. It’s all manual labour performed by a line of three men, who cut, wrap and seal cheeses in a matter of seconds.
That’s is fortunate, because across the yard Maria Teresa is waiting with a light lunch of gorgonzola dolce, gorgonzola piccante and meltet gorgonzola to eat or scoop up with crackers, black rice, bread and vegetables. A great finish for all gorgonzola lovers.
Our visit to a gorgonzola dairy was organized by Biteg – Borsa internazionale del turismo enogastronomico
Gorgonzola is a DOP protected product. It can only be produced in specific towns the Piedmont provinces of Alessandria, Novara, Vercelli, Biella, Cuneo and Casale Monferrato, and in the Lombardy provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Milan, Pavia and Varese.