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Fresh Cheese Blue CheeseSoft Cheese

 

500 CHEESES 
The only compendium you’ll ever need. 

 

Roberta Muir is well known to Showcook viewers
 from the Sydney Fish Market. Here she is giving
us an informed view of the wonderful world
of irresistible cheeses from 500 Cheeses;
fresh, blue veined to semi-hard, Roberta explains
each style of cheese clearly and concisely. 

 

Like bloomy rind cheeses, blue veined cheeses, which are also known as blue mould cheeses, are ripened by the action of oxygen-loving moulds. In this case the moulds grow inside the cheese, rather than on the surface. The channels along which the moulds grow are sometimes natural channels and cracks, as curds have been loosely packed but they are most often introduced by the cheesemaker, who spikes the cheese with long, thin, metal needles (like knitting needles) to encourage the mould to grow from the centre of the cheese out towards the rind. 

 

 

Made since the Roman times, many blue-veined cheeses, such as French Roquefort and Italy’s most famous blue cheese, Gorgonzola, have similar stories regarding their origin, usually of cheese being left in a cool dark place, a cellar or cave and later discovered attacked by mould. These early cheeses would have had blue-veining growing under their rinds and along any cracks from the surface toward the centre. Many of the wild moulds that caused this original blueing wouldn’t have tasted good, or even been safe to eat. 

 

 

Blue-Veined Cheeses

 

 


 

No doubt these first blue-veined cheeses were eaten out of hunger than desire or curiosity. But slowly, by a process of trial and error, some were found to have a pleasant flavour and texture, and so those strains or mould would have been cultivated, first by placing more cheeses in the same spot and later by placing bread in the cellars or caves allowing the moulds to grow on the bread. Then fine crumbs of the mouldy bread would be mixed into the milk when a fresh batch of cheese was being made. 

 

 

Almost all blue-veined cheeses today are made using laboratory-grown moulds related to Penicillium roqueforti, the mould discovered in the famous caves of Roquefort. These moulds need oxygen and moisture to grow, so the curds for most blue-veined cheeses are only loosely packed, leaving plenty of moisture in them along with pockets of oxygen to encourage the mould to grow. The mould doesn’t generally start to grow, however until more oxygen is introduced by spiking the cheese. If you look at a cross section of a wheel of blue-veined cheese, you can often see the channels made by the needles; most blue-veined cheeses are sold cut in half, so that the cheesemaker can check that the veining has occurred evenly.

 

English Stilton and French Roquefort are probably the best-known, most widely copied blue-veined cheeses worldwide. The techniques used to produce them are quite different, however. The French spike their cheeses almost as soon as they’re made to encourage mould growth, then, when enough mould has grown, wrap them so that the oxygen supply is cut off, halting the growth of the mould, and leave the cheeses to finish their maturing. Stilton producers, on the other hand, drain the curds for up to a week, then seal the surface of the cheese and leave it to mature for 5 – 6 weeks, spiking it to allow blue-veined growth only after it’s matured.

 

As they grow, the moulds give off ammonia and other by-products, which contribute a distinctive flavour and aroma. Most are also quite salty and tangy, as a relatively high-salt and high acid environment discourages the growth of undesirable moulds and yeasts, while the desirable blue moulds don’t mind high salt and acid levels. This makes them very savoury cheeses that marry well with slightly sweet flavours, such as dessert wines, fruit and chutneys.

 

As with most cheese types, there’s a wide range of flavours and texture among blue-veined cheeses. People who are hesitant about eating a blue cheese often enjoy bloomy rind cheeses with just a few pockets of blue mould through their interior, working their way up through some of the creamier, slightly sweeter, scraped-rind cheeses such as King Island Roaring Forties, to the more strongly blued and spicy, natural-rinded Stilton. 

 

Blue-White Mould Cheese

 

These hybrids are a great introduction to blue-veined cheese. White and blue mould spores are generally added to the milk when the cheese is made. Once the white mould forms, sealing the surface of the cheese, the blue mould has limited access to the oxygen necessary for growth. Thus, rather than veins these cheeses often just have flecks of blue and a milder flavour, the white mould producing a soft, creamy texture. Most of these cheeses are relatively new, Bresse Bleu leading the way in the 1950s, followed by Blue Castello (1960s), Cambozola (1970s), Montbriac (1990s) and MouCo Blü (2000s).

 

Mild French Blues

 

Large wheels of blue-veined cheese produced in the French mountains are among the mildest blues. In the 14th century, monks from the ancient region of Dauphiné, where Bleu de Sassenage is made, brought their cheesemaking skills to the Jura Mountains, creating two virtually identical cheeses: Bleu de Gex and Bleu de Septmoncel. They were initially grouped together under a PDO called Bleu du Haut Jura, which has been recently modified to Bleu de Gex Haut-Jura and Bleu de Septmoncel. Fourme d’Ambert and Fourme de Montbrison, another pair of similar cheeses from the Massif Central, were initially grouped under one PDO, but have now applied for separate appellations, reflecting their separate though similar origins. 

 

Roquefort

 

Praised by Pliny the Elder in 79CE and granted France’s first AOC in 1925, one of the oldest known cheeses is named for the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France’s limestone mountains. Now made from December to July by just seven companies, all Roquefort is aged in the moist, cool caves of these mountains, which contain over 600 strains of naturally occurring Penicillium roqueforti mould. Traditional loaves of bread were put into the caves to ‘harvest’ the mould, then dried and ground to a powder used to inoculate the cheese; today the mould is laboratory-grown from strains sourced in the caves. 

 

 

Other Blues

 

Bleu (meaning blue) is a common prefix for French blue-veined cheeses especially those made from cow’s milk, usually followed by a town’s or region’s name. When production of Bleu de Laqueuille (from Village of Laqueuille) spread to the whole of the surrounding region of Auvergne, it became Bleu d’Auvergne. Meanwhile Bleu de Laqueuille is still made by a co-operative in Laqueuille. Blue goat’s milk cheeses, specifically from the Savoy Alps, are often collectively called persillés, meaning ‘marbled’. Typically made from 100% goat’s milk or a mixture of milks, they can occasionally be 100% cow’s milk cheeses.

 

Gorgonzola

 

Accounts of Gorgonzola’s origin involve young wheels of stracchino accidently left behind in the cellar of the inn in the village of Gorgonzola, a resting place for cattle on their way back from the summer Alpine pastures, after the cowherds spent a night celebrating their return from the mountains. Discovered months later, the wheels were blue but delicious. Traditional Gorgonzola is made with curds from two separate milkings; the evening curds that rest overnight develop some acid and don’t blend evenly with the fresh warm curds from the morning milking, leaving air pockets to encourage, the desired blue mould growth. 

 

Spanish Blues

 

All Spanish blue-veined cheeses come from the north, where mixed herds of cows, goats and sheep are common in the mountain pastures of the Picos de Europa, and where cool, damp, limestone caves provide an ideal environment for blue mould. Unlike most blue cheeses, Cabrales, Gamoneu, and Picón Bejes-Treviso aren’t inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti or spiked; their blue veining comes from naturally occurring moulds in the caves. Cabrales no longer has its traditional wrapping of plane tree leaves, but Valdeon, which is inoculated with blue mould and no longer cave-ripened, now has this leaf wrapping, as does Picón Bejes-Tresviso.

 

Stilton

 

Soft, blue veined, sheep’s milk cheeses were once made all over England. Monks from Kirby Bellars Priory probably introduced cheesemaking to Leicestershire in the 1300s. In the early 1700s the housekeeper of Leicestershire’s Quenby Hall, Elizabeth Scarborough, made ‘Lady Beaumont’s cheese’ from an old household recipe. Perhaps she passed it on to a local woman, Frances Pawlett, who perfected it and organized local farmers to produce it, selling it to the Bell Inn in Stilton, an important stagecoach stop on the London-Edinburgh road. Thus the fame of the cheese ‘from Stilton’ spread, though it has never actually been produced in Stilton. 

 

 

500 CHEESES

The only compendium you’ll ever need
Roberta Muir
New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd

http://www.newhollandpublishers.com/

ISBN 978-1-74257-049-5
See more 500 Cheeses on Showcook

 

 

 

 
 

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