Why so blue?
The taste profile of blue cheese runs the gamut from mild and creamy through to crumbly and sharp as well as every possible combination in between. It is the choice of mould culture, the milk source as well as the maturing of the cheese which all impact the taste profile and character of the final product.
Blue cheese ripens from the inside unlike other soft cheese which ripens from the surface action of yeasts and moulds.
Did you know that blue cheese doesn’t start out blue?
The selected strain of Penicillium roqueforti is added to the milk or curds during the normal cheese making process. After the curds are drained, the rinds are salted and left to cure in temperature and humidity-controlled rooms. Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks later, the cheeses are then spiked with long needles (similar to knitting needles) which then allows air in, activating these cultures.
These veins then start off light blue/green developing over time to a darker blue, impacting the development of flavour and texture along the way.
Some classic blue cheeses
The centre of Roquefort cheese production is in the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, located in the Aveyron départment of the Midi-Pyrénées. It has been made for at least 2000 years, but it wasn’t until 1411 that a charter was signed (by Charles VI) giving local cheesemakers the sole right to make Roquefort.
In 1961, it was ruled that the cheese could be made in other regions where sheep milk cheeses were common (including Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon and as far away as Corsica), but that ripening or affinage must take place in the famous Combalou caves near the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
The mould that gives Roquefort its distinctive character (Penicillium roqueforti) is found in these natural limestone caves. Traditionally, the mould was cultivated by leaving rye bread in the caves for 6-8 weeks until it was consumed by mould, then grinding the dried bread to a powder that was added to the cheesemaking milk.
Colston Bassett Stilton
Stilton was the first English cheese to be granted legal name protection under the PDO* system. It is made by just six producers in the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Of these, the cooperative in the village of Colston Bassett is one of the smallest.
Unlike most other Stilton (produced by both Colston Bassett and other dairies), this particular hand ladled Colston Bassett Stilton – developed in partnership with Neal’s Yard Dairy in London – is made using traditional animal rennet. This results in a cheese with a milder blue character but with a richer, more complex cheese flavour and a longer finish.
Fun fact - Billy Keven is the Head Cheesemaker, one of only four in the past one hundred years.
Gorgonzola originates from the village of the same name where cows once rested after returning from their annual grazing on the rich summer pastures of the Italian Alps. Lombardy’s rich green pastures and clean mountain air are the reason for such high-quality milk.
In the 1920s, Emilio Mauri built a large factory in the small mountain village of Pasturo to make cheese as well as to ripen local cheeses - the natural caves of Valsassina offering the perfect microclimate for maturing cheese.
Gorgonzola Piccante is made with techniques tracing back to at least the 10th Century. ‘Piccante’ means ‘spicy’ and this version of the famous Italian blue is a much denser, fuller-bodied cheese than its cousin, Gorgonzola Dolce. The aroma is pungent and the flavour is strong and spicy with a pleasant tang and fruity, sweet finish.
Gorgonzola Dolce was developed after World War II when people were looking for a milder cheese. Unlike Piccante, it was made from a mixture of morning & evening milk and contrary to popular opinion, cream is not added to this cheese during production.