Blue-veined cheeses include blue, Gorgonzola, and cheddar-blue cheese. Of all the cheeses we sell in our stores, this style of cheeses usually draws the biggest reaction. Either you love them or you don’t…there are very few “fence sitters.” We find that if someone says that they really like blue cheese we can start them with the more robust, flavorful varieties we carry. If a customer says they are not big fans of blue cheese we can introduce them to some cheddar blues that carry only a hint of the blue cheese flavor…many times they act surprised that they actually like the flavor. One of our top selling cheeses is Dunbarton Blue, an English style, cave-aged, cheddar with just a hint of blue, made by cheesemaker Chris Roelli in Schullsburg, Wisconsin. Even people that “don’t like” blue cheese seem to really like this handmade beauty. Chris’s newest cheese, Red Rock, a different style of cheddar-blue, has become a big hit in cheese shops throughout the U.S.
No record exists regarding the development of the first blue-veined cheese. Some people have suggested that the mold from the Penicillium family was accidentally transferred from bread to a nearby piece of cheese. This mold, Penicillium roqueforti, found perfect conditions to grow in underground caves. The caves of Roquefort in France are the most famous in the world of blue-veined cheeses.
Penicillium roqueforti is added to milk during the cheese-making process. Holes are punched in the wheels of loosely formed curds allowing oxygen into the interior of the cheese to encourage mold growth and enable carbon dioxide produced by the mold to escape. Italian –style Gorgonzola is cured in a way to encourage the cheese to form a natural rind, which encases the soft, creamy, spreadable interior. The flavors of a good creamy Gorgonzola are milder than most “classic blue cheese.”
Most blue-veined cheeses are made with cow’s milk, although the classic Roquefort cheese made in France is made with sheep’s milk. Sheep milk has a much higher butterfat content than cow or goat milk, hence the creamy, smoother flavor. Here in Wisconsin we have cheesemakers making blue-veined cheeses with all three types of milk, each with distinct flavor profiles
Some of my personal favorites in blue-veined cheeses include Bohemian Blue, a sheep’s milk cheese made by Tony Hook in Mineral Point, using the sheep milk from Brenda Jensen of Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby, Wisconsin. I also enjoy a classic German style blue cheese from Seymour dairy called Ader Kase Reserve. This cheese has a bold, but creamy flavor. Lastly, I am a big fan of the Creamy Gorgonzola made by BelGioioso near Green Bay…very creamy and flavorful, a must on any cheese plate.
Dairy facts courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board