Blue cheese is the only food that’s not only safe to eat when
moldy, but actually tastes better. From smooth English Stilton to
Italian Gorgonzola, blue cheese is the most loved and most hated
cheese of them all.
The Background Story
Blue cheese dates back to the year 800 when it was first made by
monks. The veining process that gives blue cheese its name is a
form of controlled spoilage that adds flavour to the cheese. During
the early stages of cheesemaking, Penicillium roqueforti mold
spores are added to the milk. The cheese is pierced with long, thin
needles to create tunnels for air to get in, causing mold to grow.
Mold breaks down the fats and the proteins in the cheese, so the
longer it ages, the more intense the flavour and smoother the
texture. Some blue cheeses are an even mix of blue and white, while
others have just a hint of blue veining. Some veining is green,
gray, purple or black. The cheese ripens from the inside out from
about three to eight months.
Types of Blue Cheese
Italy: Gorgonzola, a cow’s milk cheese dating
back to ancient times and was created as a blue cheese by mistake.
Now, you can find it classified as Gorgonzola piccante (aged) or
England: Stilton, known as both the king of
blues and king of English cheeses, it can be made from sheep or
cow’s milk. The outer rind is usually darker and a bit harder than
the cheese. Aging makes it creamier and more buttery, but not too
salty or sharp.
France: Roquefort, made from cow’s milk, is one
of France’s national treasures and dates back to first century B.C.
It’s slightly holey and contains green pigment rather than blue
veining, and a soft, spicy, creamy texture; Bleu de Gex, made from
raw cow’s milk dates back to the 16th century and should be eaten
within two months of aging since it doesn’t improve with age.
Spain: Valdeon, Cabrales, Gamonedo, Picon:
These Spanish blues are usually made from pasteurized cow’s milk
but can contains some goat’s milk. Cabrales is one of the world’s
four most famous blues, along with Stilton, Roquefort and
Gorgonzola. It is traditionally a mixture of cow, sheep and goat’s
Denmark: The country’s most famous blue cheese
is the Danablu, first created in the 1920s.
Canada: Our most famous blue cheese is the
Benedictine Bleu, made by the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. The
Benedictine monks began making blue cheese in 1943 and the cheese
is still made on the grounds today.
Many blue cheeses (such as Stilton, Gorgonzola) are made and
available year round and age up to a year. They can be purchased
and consumed at any time. Some blues, such as Bleu de Gex,
Beenleigh Blue and Roquefort, are only made in winter. Here are
some other year-round notes:
Bleu des Causses is lighter in colour and drier in texture in
winter than in summer. Bleu d’Auvergne is available year round but
best in late summer to winter. Berkshire Blue tends to be harder in
summer and softer in winter due to Jersey cows’ diet. Cabrales: The
mixed-milk variety is available late summer to mid-winter.
How to Buy and Store
Blue cheese is most often made from cow or sheep milk. The best
way to store blue cheese is to keep it wrapped the way you get it
from the cheesemonger. If you purchase blue cheese at a grocery
store and it comes in plastic, wrap it instead in foil and store in
the refrigerator. Blue cheese should be served at room temperature.
Remove from refrigerator an hour before serving.
Blue cheese is perfect for eating on its own. Most blue cheeses
are semi-hard. Depending on the texture, some types (such as
Stilton) can be sliced; others (like Roquefort and Gorgonzola) are
best crumbled; and softer forms (like Cambozola) are super creamy
and are served with a spoon or spreading knife. These super-soft
Blue cheeses are sometimes treated with an additional mold to the
surface, causing a bloomy rind to occur. They can be careful
sliced, or just broken into bite-size pieces. Blue cheese makes
great dressings and sauces, and goes well with rich, sweet foods
such as dates and figs. Most blues pair well with a fruity,
full-bodied red or any dessert wine such as sherry or port.
Facts and Tips
The blue mold spores injected into cheese (Penicillium
roqueforti) is the same culture that produces penicillin. While
it’s quite safe to eat even if you are allergic to penicillin, you
should avoid eating blue cheese while you’re taking penicillin as
it could make the medicine ineffective.
Try it today: