You know you’re a cheese connoisseur when you’re in a monthly cheese club, can pair a cheese sample plate to perfection, and can even list the fancy terms used to describe the vast array of cheese varieties. But how much do you really know about your cheeses history. Sure, you can throw together a delicious platter of cheese and crackers, but do you know the ins and outs of how each slice of delectable dairy came to be? If not, this one’s for you.
Blue cheese (or rather, bleu cheese) is highly recognized for it’s pungent aroma, intense flavour and flecks of blue-mold. However, this cheeses’ history is just as outstanding as it is delicious. So, grab a glass of wine and a wedge of cheese. We’re about to take a blast to the past.
The Legend of the Blue Cheese
The history of blue cheese dates all the way back to the 7th century. However, it’s one story that makes it so unique. It’s believed that a young sheepherder was in a cave enjoying some milk curds and bread for lunch.
He had to leave his lunch behind to tend to his lover, and when he returned a couple of months later, his lunch was still there. Why not continue to eat it, despite blue flecks of mould being all over his cheese, right? And that’s exactly what he did, and to his astonishment, his mouldy cheese tasted even more delicious than before. And that’s the legend of the blue cheese.
Now, some argue that this can’t possibly be true, whereas others believe it fully. Either way, someone out there decided to try a mouldy piece of cheese - and our palates are thankful for their risk-taking taste buds.
It’s All About the Mold
Inarguably, it’s the mould that makes blue cheese so unique. Based on the legend, the mould growing in the cave, and ultimately on the young sheepherders cheese is called “penicillium roqueforti”. Some cheese makers around the world still produce blue cheese the authentic way - in caves as they grow mould naturally. This is common in France, and you can even take a tour of them.
However, it didn’t take long for the majority of the world to take a more modern approach to producing mouldy blue cheese. In today's era, the mould is typically injected into the cheese, instead of letting it grow naturally. This is said to provide more consistency throughout each piece, but it gets more interesting.
In order for the cheese to turn mouldy, oxygen is also injected. The mould then grows inside of the air tunnels of the cheese, which develops the cheeses’ distinctive flavour and blue veins as it ages. Uniquely, despite many cheese makers adapting to the modern approach of injecting the mould, the aging process still commonly occurs in limestone caves. So, blue cheese still has a bit of tradition and history within every bite, which is pretty tasty!
What About the Cheese
We can’t talk about the history of blue cheese without talking about the actual cheese itself. Blue cheese is made from ewe’s milk, goat's milk or cow’s milk, and it’s highly recognized for being one of the world’s finest cheeses. Throughout the years, people have perfected different flavours, textures and aromas, offering a vast selection of blue cheeses available across the world. However one thing is for sure, all blue cheeses are sharp, salty, pungent and incredibly delicious!
It might take some time for you to acquire a taste for mouldy blue cheese, but once you do, you’ll be hooked. Sign up for our monthly cheese club, and explore the cheesy tastes from around the world.
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