Understanding the Different Types of Blue Cheese
Blue cheese gets its start like every other cheese, but is then aged with Penicillium mold. While mold or fungus might sound gross, it’s completely healthy and safe – as well as delicious! – to eat. Blue cheese is spotted because the cheese is pieced to create airways, giving the mold oxygen. If you think of blue cheese like wine, you might lose your hesitancy. Like the fermentation process that wine goes through, the mold gives blue cheese its signature funkiness as well as acidity and flavor.
That said, blue cheese might not be for everyone. It is often an acquired taste, but please don’t write off blue cheese after only trying one varietal. Different blue cheeses have differing types of milk and processing, giving distinct types of flavors, textures, and smells. Some blue cheese is soft, some are firm. Some is mild and some is pungent. Typically, the softer and creamier cheese is the most mild.
Roquefort is one of the most popular blue cheeses as well as perhaps the oldest known blue cheese. Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk, specifically from the milk of the Lacaune, Manech, and Basco Bearnaise sheep. To make it more specific, Roquefort cheese is aged only in the Combalou caves in Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon (where Penicillium roqueforti can be found). Rennet (Rennet is enzymes that coagulate milk and separate the curds from the whey) is added to the ewe’s milk within 48 hours of milking, where it is heated and then fermented into curds in large vats. It’s pierced before being placed in the caves for a few weeks, and then wrapped and aged for 3 to 10 months longer.
Danish Blue cheese is a semi-soft varietal made from cow’s cheese. A cheesemaker named Marius Boel created Danish Blue in the early 20th century when he tried to mnic Roquefort cheese. Danish Blue is more mild, compared to Roquefort, and commonly aged for 8 to 12 weeks and sold in wedges, drums, or blocks.
Once of the strongest blue cheeses, Stilton has a pungent smell and taste, aged for at least 9 weeks. The English cheese is required to be made in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, or Derbyshire from one of seven dairies to be called “Stilton.” The cheese is made from local, English pasteurized milk mixed with rennet and rotated regularly as the cheese ripens.
Crumbly gorgonzola is one of the best known types of blue cheese, offering a salty, delicious bite of blue cheese often sprinkled on burgers and salads. The Italian cheese ages about 3-4 months at low temperatures from a base of either goat milk or cow milk. It’s named after the small Italian city near Milan, Gorgonzola, but is now made anywhere within the Lombardy and Piedmont regions and infused with lactic acid bacteria in addition to the traditional Penicillin glaucum bacteria.
The cheese comes in two styles: Gorgonzola Dolce is aged for less than two months and Gorgonzola Piccante is aged up to five months. Gorgonzola Dolce is one of the least “blue” blue cheeses, because it is so creamy that when it is skewered to allow in oxygen, the cheese caves back it on itself. The result is a light, creamy blue cheese that is almost as mild as blue cheese can get.
One of the best known American blue cheeses, Maytag was first produced in 1941 from just outside Newton, Iowa (home to the appliance corporation Maytag). The cheese begins by separating the cream from the fresh Iowa farm milk, homogenizing the cream, and then adding the homogenized cream back to the original milk that’s been skimmed.
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