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Aug 18, 2006 11:17 PM

Blue Cheese

What is Blue Cheese? Is it stale cheese that develops fungus? How is it made? Gives me the creeps to think abt it. Pls explain why it tastes funny

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  1. This is the very untechnical explanation, but I think they put something in it to make it go moldly. And it shouldn't taste "funny." It might smell strong, but that's a different story.

    Any cheesemakers out there care to comment?


    5 Replies
    1. re: TexasToast

      I am not a cheesemaker! But I can tell you that a starter combining rennet and mold spores is introduced to the milk. The cheese is not 'stale' and the mold hasn't grown accidentally.

      I think an eater who feels that blue cheeses are creepy and taste funny is not at all likely to come to enjoy them. It's probably better to focus on the style of cheese that you enjoy.

      1. re: Kater

        I love blue cheeses, but they are kind of creepy and taste kind of "funny," but well worth developing a taste for. As with many in Berkeley, my favorite for a while has been St. Agur.

        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          That's funny! I'm picturing a very enthusiastic diner asking his server "And will you please bring the cheese cart. We're in the moody for one of your creepy little blues. You know, the funny tasting ones!" : )

          1. re: chocolatetartguy

            I completely agree about St. Agur. It is a smooth tasting creamy blue. I love how it has the texture of butter at room temperature.

            1. re: Tara9000

              The development of the mold causes ammonia to be created that is one of the primary components of both the odour and the sharpness in the taste.

              Oh, yeah, I'm eating some St. Agur right now with a fresh baguette and some Tokaji-Aszu. St. Agur is a strongly flavoured yet creamy and smooth blue. It is a nice entry into stronger blue cheese than the ubiquitous danish blue.

              Bleu D'Auvernge is also creamy, less ammonia flavour, and much more salty.

              My favourite blue is Smuggler's Blue out of England -- its rich and thick like any good stilton, but ... um ... better?

              Once you've given these a try, move on to try some of the really strong, dry, crumbly, intense Spanish blues. Or move the other way and try Gorgonzola Dulce (a very sweet and creamy gorgonzola) or the Marscarpone-Gorgonzola torte.

              When you've got those under you wing, give Linberger a go. By then you'll be addicted! Don't forget that most blues taste best with nutty or sweet pairings. Try figs, honey, nuts, pears, botrysized wines, ice wines, sauteurnes.

      2. When I was a kid, my older brother told me blue cheese was made from dead armadillos. I believed him for longer that I should have.

        Lucky for me, I grew up to discover the beauty of blue cheese and now I love a good maytag with a little honey and some walnuts. But I can definitely see how it might be an acquired taste.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dexters

          I'm the opposite--I loved it growing up, then we moved down the street from a cave they used to age the cheese (is that common practice--cave aging a cheese?). That smell! It still haunts me. Now I only eat blue cheese dressing with wings--it tastes good but that smell still gets to me.

        2. Where's all the indignant passionate responses from blue cheese mavins?

          I love all the blues, I've ever tasted, but am definately not an expert. Stilton is my favorite for all time though, served up as part of a Ploughman's Lunch.

          1 Reply
          1. Most blue cheeses start out as pure white, with the penicillan spores added to the curd. After partial aging, the cheese is pierced with needles. Oxygen enters the holes and turns the penicillan blue. You can see the needle marks clearly in gorgonzola, for example.

            Roquefort and several others, mostly French and Spanish blues, acquire their haunting flavor from the environment, i.e., caves, that they are aged in. Cabrales, from Spain, is the only "spontaneous" blue that I know of, picking up mold naturally with no human manipulation.

            In my opinion, blues offer the greatest diversity in individual flavors, and there are so many that are outstanding: Roquefort and Stilton are obvious examples, but also Blue de Gex, Fourme d'Ambert, Blue A'Auvergne, Blue des Causses from France; Point Reyes, Great Hill and Hudson Ewe Blue from the US; Dolce and Mountain Gorgonzolas from Italy; Cabrales and Valdeon from Spain, to name a very few from hundreds.

            8 Replies
            1. re: pitterpatter

              Now THAT'S the kinda explanation only a CH can give ya!


              1. re: pitterpatter

                To add a couple of others, I love the Bayley Hazen blue from Vermont and the blues from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon. In particular, their "Rogue River Blue" -- wrapped in chestnut leaves and only available seasonally (late summer through fall, until they sell out) -- is amazing.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Yes, the Rogue Creamery blues are excellent. The smoked blue was a little over the top for me, but still delish in small tastes.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Adding a couple more: the blue mold tinged Hubbardston blue cow and blue goat from Capri Westfield Farms in MA. Outstanding American cheeses.


                    1. re: limster

                      Glad you love the Hubbardston Blues from Westfield Farm. I've worked there as a cheesemaker for a few years, and they are wonderful cheeses to work with.

                      As you know from eating them, they are unpierced and ripen (like a camembert or brie) from the outside in. The paste is whitish yellow and creamy. No veining.

                      A quick how-to: We introduce a roquefort mold after we cut the curd. They age for a week at roughly 70/70 (temp/humidity) then they sit for a couple weeks more in the WF "cave".

                      We've been experimenting the past couple of years with a true aged blue-veined cheese made from Ayrshire milk. It's called Worcester County Cow. We've sold a bunch to Tomales Bay/Cowgirl Creamery but otherwise it's been a slow starter. We've had the best results from the thicker milk in the darker months, so check with WF Dec-Apr to try it out.

                      1. re: chipbrantley

                        Is this Worcester County Cow sold by any local (MA) outlet, or will it only be available at WF?

                      2. re: limster

                        I've just had these recently - wonderful - found at a great cheese shop in Sag Harbor, LI.

                      3. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Just a note that this year's batch of Rogue River Blue has been release (a little earlier than usual, according to my cheesemonger). It's as delicious as I remember. Be sure to get the right one, as the Rogue Creamery makes several blue cheeses. I was wrong about it being wrapped in chestnut leaves, btw. According to their website, "After maturation, they wrap the cheese in Syrah and Merlot grape leaves previously macerated in Clear Creek pear brandy and tie it together with raffia." I hadn't noticed the slight pear flavor before, but it was apparent in this batch.

                    2. Just back from a trip to Craftsbury Common VT where I visited Bonneyview Farms. The sheppard/cheese maker was in the process of making a blue cheese from sheeps milk. He heats the milk then introduces seven different types of spores, pours into molds, then allows to set. Interesting process, great blue cheese, soon to be available at Fromaggio's in Cambridge.