Singing the Blues
Typically moldy food has a negative connotation, but not in the case of blue cheese! Blue cheese is the name given to cheeses that contain cultures of one or two types of blue mold: Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum. These molds thrive in low oxygen environments and feed on milk proteins. Blue cheese is aged in temperature controlled environments, traditionally in caves.
There are three main types of blue cheese: Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton. Roquefort is a sheep's milk cheese known for its sharp, tangy flavor and creamy texture. It's one of the oldest known cheeses! In order for a cheese to be classified as a Roquefort, it must be made in the town of Roquefort in southern France.
Gorgonzola is a cow's milk blue cheese produced in Northern Italy that has a robust and aromatic "funky" flavor. Stilton is a semi-soft cow’s milk blue cheese with delicate veining and a crumbly yet smooth texture. It has a bold, intense, rich and salty flavor. Stilton is cylindrically shaped and allowed to form its own edible crust.
Blue cheese is made by first heating the milk, and then adding a starter culture which causes the milk to begin separating into curds and whey. Then, mold spores are added—either Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum—along with rennet. Once curds form, the cheese is pressed into the desired shape, and is then salted and dried. As it dries, the cheesemaker needles the cheese to allow the mold to travel into the cavities and create the signature veining. The cheese is then left to age for the desired amount of time, the average being around 2 months. Blue cheeses that are aged for longer periods of time have a more pungent flavor.
Blue cheese is extremely versatile. It is great paired with a stout beer or a sweet and fruity wine. It is great on a cheeseboard paired with dried or fresh fruit. It is great for crumbling on salads or used in recipes. There are so many different varieties of blue cheese for every taste, whether you like it subtle or funky! Here are some of my suggestions:
"Inspired by the sheer natural beauty of [the Point Reyes] coastal climate and locale, Bay Blue is a rustic-style blue cheese with a natural rind. It is known for its mellow flavor and sweet, salted caramel finish...The star of an after-dinner cheese course, Bay Blue is perfect for savoring alongside a glass of Vintage Port or Barrel-Aged Scotch. In the kitchen, the options are endless. Bay Blue is a great topper for a succulent steak or burger, shaved onto poached pears or grilled peaches or melted into mushroom risotto. Wine suggestions include a Chenin Blanc or an earthy Pinot Noir."
"Kickstarting your palate, it opens gently, slowly intensifying as it sits on your tongue. Braced with tones of toasted hops, the flavors are mild, bordering on tangy, with a creamy consistency to garnish and complete the profile. Its ivory-colored body, imbued with blue veins that stretch like gushing rivers, is certain to sit perfectly at any table and beside any dish."
I like to enjoy this one with sliced Green Anjou pears and walnuts!
"Bayley has developed a loyal following because of its fudge-like texture, toasted-nut sweetness, and anise spice character. The paste is dense and creamy, with well-distributed blue veins. The usual peppery character of blue cheese is subdued, giving way to the grassy, nutty flavors in the milk."
Don't stop here, there are so many delicious blue varieties out there for you to try!