Every once in awhile you experience something that is so different yet so wonderful that you keep going back for more. You don’t know if you are revisiting it because you just like it, or because you’re still trying to figure out what it is. For many of us cheese lovers, blue cheese provides such an experience. The amazing and complex flavors and textures that come back from these moldy creations bring back many of us again and again.
There are many ways, and many different types of blue cheese to enjoy. Any can make a perfect mid-afternoon snack with very little effort. You can escape the heat with a class of cool rosé and a wedge of creamy and savory blue such as Bleu d’Auvergne.
I know blue cheese can be a little daunting, but there is no reason everyone can’t fall in love with this amazing, happy mistake. Blue cheese, as with many great discoveries, started as an accident. Legend has it that a shepherd from the south of France was taking shelter in a cave one day to eat his lunch of fresh sheep’s milk cheese and bread when a beautiful farm girl walked by. He immediately left his lunch to pursue the girl. When he returned, he found that a rich blue mold had grown over his leftovers, and he was so hungry that he went ahead and ate it anyway. Much to his surprise, he found that the mold had transformed the sweet and mild cheese that he had left behind into a wonderfully complex and delicious new breed.
After the discovery of this transformational blue mold, cheesemakers began to inoculate their cheese to impart a wide variety of succulent flavors. The practice spread around the world and cheese lovers everywhere have been enjoying blue cheese for thousands of years. Today, the cheese makers of southern France still age their artfully crafted wheels of Roquefort in the same caves where this mold was originally found. In the case of these famous cheeses, the blue veining contributes a sharp, acidic and piquant flavor, as well as a bouquet of pungent, fruity aromas. A good hunk of Roquefort makes the perfect pairing for your favorite summer fruits including berries, melons, and figs, which balance the strong character of the Roquefort with their sweetness.
If you’re not on the blue bandwagon yet, I suggest what we in the cheese world like to call “gateway blues.” One of the best ways to start your love of blue cheese is by using it as a dessert. Start with a nice wedge of Gorgonzola Dolce, spread it across an apple slice, drizzle it with honey, and you have one of the most delicious and easy desserts of your life. Pour a glass of Moscato to enjoy with it, and you are set for the rest of the night. Gorgonzola Dolce is one of the sweetest and creamiest blues out there. Made in the Italian Alps, its rich and thick body delightfully contrasts with its slightly earthy and sweet flavor. For a French take on dessert, try a slice of one of my personal favorites, Fourme d’Ambert. Its earthy, fruit, and mineral flavors are a bit more balanced and mellow than Roquefort, and it packs more of a punch than Gorgonzola Dolce.
Give any of these options a try, and you will either find a new friend in the world of blue cheese or discover some new and intriguing flavors you never noticed before.
- Calder Michienzi, Surdyk’s Cheesemonger