A Buyer’s Guide to Blue Cheese

A Buyer’s Guide to Blue Cheese

Blue cheese is a great delicacy enjoyed by many. There are multiple variations of blue cheese, each one unique in flavour & taste. 

There are many things you can combine blue cheese with, whether that’s a great red wine, delicious crackers, a tasty chutney or fruit.

With this guide, you’ll learn just what to pair your favourite blue cheese with and what blue cheese is all about.

What is blue cheese?

Blue cheese tends to be a soft cheese which gets its ‘blueness’ from penicillium spores; it has a sharp, salty kick. 

Depending on the type of blue cheese and how it was prepared, the flavour can be more or less intense.

What does blue cheese taste like?

To put it simply, the mould part of the cheese tastes quite tangy and the cheese part tastes very creamy. Usually, blue cheese has a sharp, sour, well-spiced, and salty taste. 

It is quite an acquired taste. If you have never tried blue cheese before, it may be a good idea to mix it with cream first or go for a creamy mild blue Brie.

What gives blue cheese its flavour?

Penicillium is the main ingredient from which blue cheese gets its flavour. Penicillium does not produce toxins like other moulds, allowing it to be consumed safely.

Why is blue cheese blue?

The reason for the ‘blueness’ of blue cheese is, again, penicillium. The aged curds are pierced, leaving behind air tunnels. Now given oxygen, the mould is allowed to grow on the sides of these air tunnels, giving the cheese a blue, veiny appearance.

How many types of blue cheese are there?

Today, there are a vast array of different types of blue cheese. Throughout the world, blue cheeses are being created in a multitude of styles and from different ingredients.

The four main regional classics are Roquefort from France, Stilton from England, Gorgonzola from Italy and Cabrales from Spain. 

The first blue cheese to be made was made, legend has it, in a cave in Roquefort in France by accident. A shepherd forgot his bread and cheese when he left the cave. Upon his return, he found that the bread and cheese were covered in a mould. After trying it and liking it, he then went on to recreate it!

The Nicky Nook blue cheese is one of our favourites and made very locally to us in Preston.  It is an indulgent cheese - its smooth texture and orange hue makes it the perfect centrepiece for any cheese board. 

If this cheese sounds like a bit of you, then have a look at The Cheese Emporium’s cheese board box, ‘The Lancashire One’.

Gorgonzola is the oldest blue cheese from Italy. This cheese has been around since 879 AD, however, it didn’t have blue veins inside it until the 11th century.

How do you choose blue cheese?

The choice of blue cheese is very dependent on the person choosing.  For some people, the sharper, tangier & saltier the better; for others, a milder ‘starter blue’ could be more appropriate.  

As with all cheeses, there’s something for everyone, so don’t discount liking blue cheese if you haven’t found the one for you just yet!

What is the difference between blue cheese and stilton?

Stilton is a type of blue cheese made from cow’s milk. It is only licensed to be produced in three counties in the UK: Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Stilton cannot be produced in the Stilton town itself because of this licensing.

Stilton cheese has a creamy and crumbly texture and is one of the milder blue cheeses, making it a lot of people’s favourite blue cheese and a firm Christmas cheese board fave.

How to store blue cheese correctly

Even though it is made up of mould, blue cheese can still go bad - this is why it needs to be stored correctly. 

Tightly wrapping the blue cheese up in either wax paper or cling film and placing it in the fridge, can extend the life of the cheese by up to 3-4 weeks. 

Blue cheese can also be frozen to further extend its shelf life.

How is blue cheese made?

The process of making blue cheese has changed since the life-changing accident in the Roquefort cave in France to a much more scientific method. 

The type of blue cheese being produced depends on which type of milk is used. 

  1. The milk is sometimes pasteurised and given a starter culture that changes the lactose into a lactic acid - this also changes the milk from a liquid to a solid.
  2. Once the curds have been produced, they are cut to release the whey.
  3. Penicillium is then added to the cheese whilst it is left to age for 60 to 90 days.
  4. During the ageing process, the curds are cut open and pierced to allow oxygen to get to the interior of the cheese, forming air tunnels. With the introduction of oxygen, it influences the penicillium mould to grow more. These air tunnels are then filled with mould over time giving the blue cheese its blue, greeny vein appearance.

    How long does blue cheese last?

    When in the packaging, blue cheese can last from 1 month to 6 months. Once it is opened, it can last about 3-4 weeks if it is stored correctly in the fridge. 

    As stated above, blue cheese can also be frozen.

    How to tell if blue cheese is bad

    Any sign of other types of mould on the blue cheese and it should be thrown away immediately. What you want to look out for are fuzzy white, green, pink or grey spots growing on the surface. If the cheese is giving of an odour similar to ammonia, then definitely get rid of it.

    Blue Cheese Pairings

    The type of blue cheese will depend on what will go well with it; some blue cheeses are perfectly matched with several different wines from red to white, and some blue cheeses are complemented by different lagers or ales. 

    The founders of The Cheese Emporium also own The Mouse Trap Cheese & Wine bar, located in Ramsbottom, which has a great choice of alcoholic beverages to pair with every type of cheese.

    What wine pairs best with blue cheese?

    The wine pairing will really depend on the strength and the texture of the blue cheese. 

    A stronger blue would work well with a sweeter wine, such as a dessert wine like Muscat, for example, or fortified wines like Sherry & Port. 

    Milder, creamier blues work well with Chardonnay.

    What beer pairs well with blue cheese?

    As with wine, the pairing will very much depend on the strength of the blue cheese. 

    Stronger blues will work well with stronger richer flavours like Barley Wines, whereas milder blues like Cambozola work well with something light, such as an IPA. 

    What spirits pair well with blue cheese?

    When looking at spirits, the same principles apply again. 

    Light spirits, such as gin, will work better with lighter cheeses. Gin is distilled with many herbs and berries which often gives a floral flavour, which would work well with the milder, Brie-like blues. 

    Something like a rum, which is sweet, would be a great match for the strong, salty blues.

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