For those who scoff at the very idea of blue cheese (let alone the aroma and taste), I say too bad for you. You're missing one of life's greatest, most flavorful pleasures. Yes, you really are. No, I don't need to hear how it tastes strange, how it makes you feel as if you're eating soap, how it's too strong, how it's simply too weird, nope. Don't wanna hear it. You see, some of us embrace all the things that others may not like; it's the intensity, the explosion of flavor, the history, and –most importantly–
the penicillium roquefortii that we crave.
And boy do we crave it.
Let's go back a few years. As with many of the world's great culinary treasures, the discovery of blue cheese is the subject of legends. We do know this: someone along the way (some say a shepherdess)
left some cheese in the caves of Roquefort, came back and found it teeming with bacteria. Sounds scary, doesn't it? Absolutely, and I'd like to buy her a beer!
Today, blue cheese is made by injecting bacteria into cheese and letting nature do its thing. Sometimes it comes from a starter batch and mixed in. It's this bacteria that gives it its blue-veined appearance, and in the case of some of my favorites, a blueish-green hue. And blue cheese is truly a global product, being made all over the world.
So go ahead, make that face. You know the one. The one that says you can't stand it. That face you make when you could care less about hiding your disdain for blues. Because according to my sources, Americans purchased and consumed over 52 million pounds of domestic and imported blue cheese last year alone; I think I'm in pretty good company.
* * * What turned out to be a short blurb about one of my favorite blues turned into something much longer as I cannot help but sing the praises of blue cheeses. Below are a few of my favorites that I've been eating as of late.Shaft's Ellie's Vintage 2 Year Aged Blue
Get this: this cheese is born in Wisconsin, brought to California and aged for 2 years in an old gold mine tucked in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Wow. Yowza. Holy smokes. How this cheese can be aged for that long and yield a creamy, tender bite is beyond me. Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
Awarded the coveted Best New Product in the World Award at the Specialty Food Trade Food Show in New York, Oregon's Rogue's Smokey Blue is so mindblowingly fantastic that you can't help but swoon and feel lightheaded from the first bite. This traditional blue is smoked overnight in hazelnut shells, resulting in a pale straw-colored creamy cheese whose bite is balanced by the flavor of smoke. Such a beautiful cheese.Cabrales
"One of the world's most striking cheeses" says the importer of this famous blue that takes its name from the town where it's made. Made from cow's milk and sometimes a mix of sheep or goat's milk, Cabrales in undeniably Spanish. It's a bit sour and tart, and when I want to melt a blue this is the one I grab. Made in limited quantities using traditional farmhouse methods. When I die I hope my soul goes to Asturias.Bleu d'Auvergne
From Southeastern France, this blue is creamier than Roquefort and is utterly delicious. Give me a baguette, a hunk of this, a pear and I'll be on my way, thankyouverymuch.Point Reyes Original Blue
Is it the California coastal fog? Is it the raw milk from the cows that graze on the land? Is it the salty Pacific Breezes? It's most likely a perfect combination of all of the above that make Point Reyes Original Blue cheese so utterly delicious, not to mention California's only classic style blue cheese. This is the blue cheese that I give to friends who aren't quite sold on blues. It's clean, always consistently delicious and has a wonderful firm texture. I think I'll go enjoy a bite right now - it's always in our fridge.