In the picturesque region of southern France, nestled in the caves of Combalou, a culinary masterpiece ages to perfection - Roquefort blue cheese. Revered as one of the world's finest blue cheeses, Roquefort boasts a rich history, a unique production process, distinctive characteristics, and a wide array of culinary uses that elevate it to a coveted position on the global gastronomic stage.
Roquefort's journey through time can be traced back over a thousand years. Legend has it that the cheese was discovered accidentally by a young shepherd who left his lunch of bread and ewe's milk cheese in the caves while seeking shelter. Upon returning, he found his meal transformed into the luscious blue cheese we know today. The caves of Combalou, with their natural humidity and optimal temperature, provide the ideal conditions for the development of the Penicillium roqueforti mold that gives Roquefort its distinct blue veins.
The making of Roquefort is an art that combines tradition and precision. The process begins with the milking of local Lacaune sheep, whose milk is renowned for its richness and unique flavor. The milk is then heated and curdled using a specific blend of natural rennet derived from the stomachs of young lambs. Once the curds form, they are cut, drained, and packed into molds.
What sets Roquefort apart is the next crucial step - affinage, or maturation. The cheese is carefully transported to the limestone caves, where it undergoes a minimum of 90 days of aging. During this period, the wheels are pierced with thin needles to encourage the growth of the distinctive blue-green mold. This intricate process results in a cheese with a crumbly texture and a bold, tangy flavor.
Roquefort cheese boasts a moist and crumbly consistency, complemented by a pronounced interplay of sharpness, tanginess, and saltiness in its flavor profile. Exhibiting a color palette ranging from white to pale yellow, its distinctive appearance is further enriched by marbling with blue to blue-green mold, which imparts both its characteristic look and signature taste. Not bound by a traditional rind, Roquefort unfolds a sensory experience marked by buttery, caramelly, and smoky notes in both its flavors and aroma. When subjected to gentle heat, Roquefort gracefully melts, although caution is warranted as high temperatures can prompt separation.
Roquefort cheese can enhance various dishes, serving as a versatile ingredient. Whether as a pizza topping, in quesadillas, on sandwiches, in casseroles, as a steak and burger topping, baked in tarts, accompanying roasted vegetables, as a stuffing for a range of items from peppers to olives, or as the foundation for a delectable cheese sauce for pasta and gnocchi, its rich flavor adds a delightful touch to a diverse array of culinary creations.
Pairing Roquefort with honey, nuts, or fresh fruits creates a symphony of tastes that captivates the senses. For an exquisite cheese board, complement it with crusty bread, figs, and a glass of sweet dessert wine for a truly indulgent experience.
Beyond its culinary prowess, Roquefort also brings health benefits to the table. Rich in calcium, phosphorus, and protein, it contributes to bone health and muscle development. The mold used in Roquefort, Penicillium roqueforti, is believed to have potential probiotic properties that may positively impact gut health.
Moderation is key, as Roquefort, like all cheeses, is calorie-dense. However, its bold flavor profile means that a little goes a long way, allowing you to savor the experience without overindulging.
Roquefort blue cheese is a triumph of tradition, craftsmanship, and taste. Its storied history, meticulous production process, distinctive characteristics, and culinary versatility make it a treasure that continues to enchant palates around the world.
Find your next favorite Roquefort by checking out the producers below!
Société des Caves - https://www.roquefort-societe.com/les-caves/
Papillon - https://www.roquefort-papillon.com/
Gabriel Coulet - https://www.gabriel-coulet.fr/
Roquefort Carles - http://www.roquefort-carles.fr/fr/
Vernières – http://www.roquefort-vernieres.fr/
Le Vieux Berger - https://www.le-vieux-berger.com/