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The "Blue" Cheeses

Call them bleu or blue, there are many varieties that are flavor enhanced with mold

As blue cheeses go, it is said that their taste is often acquired rather than achieved naturally. They adorn cheese platters, are baked into casseroles, and sprinkled on salads. Many of them are famously known while others are regional and unobtainable.

They all share a common trait, whether they come from sheep's milk or cow's milk. These cheeses are inoculated with strains of penicillin, in many cases Penicillium roqueforti. They are then allowed to age while the mold makes its progression through the interior to the outer edges. The blue, blue-green, and black coloration will be seen as pockmarks, veining, and in the straight-edges injection marks left by the needles

Roquefort is the best-known blue cheese. It is produced in Southern France and protected by the AOC (appellation d'origine controllee). That means that only cheese from this area near Roquefort-sur-Soulzon can be called Roquefort. It comes from unpasteurized sheep's milk that at the age of about three days is transferred to the caves of Mont Combalou. These are indeed special caverns as they are naturally vented, maintain their own temperature controls, and produce the penicillin-like mold. Specially-prepared rye bread is baked annually and placed in the caves. Within a few days, the mold develops. When completely covered, the bread is dried and the mold is reduced to powder. From here it is injected into the cheese, and the ripening process begins. Blue cheeses must be aged at least two months, but Roquefort often is left for as long as a year.

Other countries, including the U.S. produce blue cheeses and many use the same strains of mold.

Some of the more familiar names include:

-Blue Maytag, which is made in Iowa, follows many of the same traditions as Roquefort.
-Danish Blue and Blue Castello, extremely high fat content, with a shorter ripening period.
-Gorgonzola, a familiar Italian blue around the world, and protected within the region.
-Bayerhofer Blue and Blue Bayou are Bavarian cheeses. The latter has no surface mold, while the former bears a distinctive red-mold surface.
-Stilton, England's most famous blue, and once known as Leicester cream cheese.

Each country has its own reference to blue cheeses. They include Fromage Blue (France), Formaggio erborinato (Italy), Azul/Queso Azul/Pasta Azul (Spanish-speaking countries), and Edelpilzkase (Germany).



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