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Blue Cheese Varieties: Moldy Cheese That Tastes Great
What is Blue Cheese?
Blue Cheese, also spelled as Bleu cheese, is best known for its pungent, sharp taste. Originating in France, blue cheese purposely includes mold. That's right... regardless of whether the cheese itself is made from the milk of a cow, sheep or goat, penicillium cultures are added so that the end result includes spots or veins of bluish colored mold.
In other words, this is one moldy cheese that you'll actually enjoy!
Like some specialty wines, certain blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton can only be so-called if they have been made in the region for which the cheese is named. Of course, this not only ensures the high quality of the gourmet cheeses, but also increases their price.
If you've ever enjoyed the salty, creamy goodness of a true Gorgonzola (my absolute favorite), then you'll agree that not just any cheese maker should be able to lay claim to the famous name.
How to Make Blue Cheese
How Mold Makes the Cheese: Blue Cheese
Perhaps its not shocking to learn that the mold that gives blue cheese its unique taste (and pungent odor) was accidentally discovered 1000 years ago when it appeared on cheese that was aged in a cave. Turns out that the environment so perfect for aging cheese was also prime real estate for some mold varieties.
Once the moldy cheese was enjoyed, future cheesemakers actually started to encourage the mold growth in blue cheese varieties - from Roquefort to Maytag Blue Cheese.
The making of blue cheese is similar in many ways to other types of cheeses, until the end when mold spores are added (or otherwise encouraged to grow). As described on "The Straight Dope":
In modern blue cheese production, the mold comes from a highly controlled "starter" batch. For home made blue cheese, the mold is taken from the previous batch of cheese. This mold is introduced into the ripening cheese by poking long skewers through the mixture, which also allows air introduced to assist in the mold growth. However, to maintain a quality product with a consistent look and feel, some modern production methods mix the mold with the curds before they're pressed, so no skewering is involved. While cheese purists are divided somewhat on which technique produces a better cheese, I can find no evidence of a preference in the consumer market.
The Making of Gorgonzola Cheese
Buy Blue Cheese
Enjoying Blue Cheese Varieties
As I noted above, I am a Gorgonzola cheese enthusiast. Yet, there are many blue cheese varieties that can be enjoyed either on their own or incorporated into your favorite recipes. The semi-soft cheese is quite versatile.
Blue cheese crumbles are excellent on top of pastas or salads. Melted into sauces or formed into burger patties, the nutty, tangy flavor will add a unique flavor to your dishes. Of course, blue cheese dressing is popular on green salads too. Because of its strong flavor, its best to pair it with other salty, full-flavored foods like bacon, tomatoes, olives, etc. Bleu cheese can easily overwhelm more subtle flavors. Make your own blue cheese dressing or dip simply and easily and serve with carrots, celery, snap peas and sweet peppers.
On its own, blue cheese is excellent served with crusty bread, crackers, fresh fruit and wine. Bring it to room temperature first. Its rustic qualities stand up boldly to wines, so pick a full-bodied, tannic varietal, like Zinfandel or Merlot.
The gourmet cheese is a popular food gift - whether you bring it along to a party for a hostess gift, or ship it to a friend for a special occasion. Its also great for serving along side other gourmet cheeses on a fine cheese platter.
Like other cheeses, blue cheese can be incorporated into a healthy diet. Because of its strong flavor, it can be used sparingly. A little bit goes a long way!
Blue cheese is high in protein, contains calcium and phosphorus. Yes, it has fat too, but enjoyed in moderation, the fat in blue cheese may actually help you eat healthier. Protein and fat together in dairy foods like cheese can help keep you satiated longer and less likely to consume additional or larger meals. Just be aware of portion sizes when you enjoy your cheese!
Do you Enjoy Blue Cheese?
Delicious Blue Cheese
All this talk about blue cheese has resulted in a serious craving!
I cannot decide whether I'll just get some Gorgonzola to enjoy with my favorite Tuscan olive bread, or get some Roquefort to crumble on top of grilled steak. (excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard...)