The Vast World of Blue Cheese
Often associated with one characteristic blue flavor, blue cheese comes in all types of textures and variations of flavor. The density of the cheese can range from creamy and buttery to crumbly, which showcases the blue mold in a flavor profile range of subtle and grassy to mineral and piquante.
Origins of Blue Cheese
The blue mold found in is blue cheese is often penicillium roqueforti, a fungus whose name originates from the town of Roquefort, where Roquefort cheese is produced. A secondary popular blue fungus used in cheesemaking is called penicillium glaucum, and the two molds are often inoculated into the milk in tandem at the beginning of the cheesemaking process.
Recent studies hypothesize that the origin story of penicillium roqueforti in cheese is linked back to a plant pathogen of rye, which made its way into the flour and then the baked bread that was left near sheep milk cheese in an aging cave in Roquefort. (See Forbes article) The fungus is also widespread in nature - it can be found in soil, decaying matter, and plants.
Factors That Effect Ripening
In cheese, the blue mold only starts to grow when exposed to oxygen, which explains the signature spearing of holes through blue cheese wheels before they are aged in open air in a cave.
You can view the speared holes in the rind of the tall wheel of Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, above.
Once cut, blue cheese holds a delicate paste that requires high humidity levels to retain its signature characteristics. We recommend storing blue cheese in 80 to 90% humidity levels to be able to preserve the style for longer.
Blue cheese wedges, when stored in a drier environment, will become more crumbly- thus making them more spicy with blue mold flavor over time. If they dry out, the blue cheese can certainly still be used for sprinkling over salads, or broiling in stuffed figs.
Best Way to Store Blue Cheese
The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow specialty blue cheese to thrive. You'll notice that the paste of the cheese will retain its texture and profile if the Grotto is stored on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.
If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!
How to Serve Blue Cheese
It is always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it. The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise.
Pairing Food and Wine with Blue Cheese
Blue cheese is an experience unto itself on a cheese board, and is complimented by juicy fruits and prosciutto. Blue Cheese's classic pairing is a port wine (think Stilton and Port) which has the body and viscosity to stand up to the blue. We also recommend Lambrusco sparkling wine, as the bubbles simply lift the blue off the palate (think buttery Bayley Hazen Blue or Fourme D'Ambert with Lambrusco). Chocolate is also a classic pairing for blue cheese, which you can read a little more about here.