Culture Magazine originally shared this link to an archival video from Papillon documenting Roquefort production back in the 1920’s. As they say “Great for mustache aficionados, or anyone looking to catch a glimpse into cheesemaking’s past.” The first half is silent with French music around the 6 1/2 minute marker it’s a more contemporary and narrated show.
Big, bold and blue in the world of cheese, blues are certainly not shy. The three standard bearers, Stilton, Gorgonzola and Roquefort are each distinct. However, Roquefort is singularly pugent, assertive and sharp. Made from raw ewe’s milk (a female sheep) from the south of France, Roquefort is made entirely from the milk of the Lacaune, Manech andBasco-Béarnaise breeds of sheep. Based on overall production volumes it is the second most popular cheese of this country after Comté.
Legend and lore abound, suggesting that this cheese was pure chance. A love-stuck shepard who while eating his lunch of bread and sheep’s milk cheese was distracted by a sun-kissed maiden and left his meal in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Forgetting about his meal he returned days later only to discover the cheese covered in mold. In 1411 Charles VI of France gave sole rights to the ageing of Roquefort cheese to the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and all Roquefort still must be aged in the caves there today. Today the mold is injected into the cheese to ensure even distribution, but it is still aged in the same caves.
The blue veining is the mold Penicillium roqueforti, and originally came from the walls of the limestone caves in the south of France where the cheese was ripened. I once read a profile on James Beard that on his first TV show, the 1946 ‘I Love to Eat’, he applied ink to color the veining of Roquefort cheese so it would be more pronounced on television.
The Roquefort Association designates a genuine Roquefort cheese with the marking of a red sheep on the foil label. Only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may carry the name as this cheese has AOC protected status. Typically there are around 40,000 round pains, (loaves) maturing in these caves for around 3 to 4 months. Leftover ewe’s milk from Roquefort production is used to make Valbreso French Feta, an equally tasty brined cheese. Roquefort is typically best between April and October after its ripening period.
There are seven Roquefort producers with the largest being Roquefort Société followed by Roquefort Papillon and Gabriel Coullet. The four other producers are Carles, Fromageries Occitanes, Vernières and Combes (Le Vieux Berger).
Jane and Louis Grubb started their farmstead cheese making in 1984 at the family farm in Beechmount, near the old episcopal town of Cashel, in county Tipperary. The dairy farm long produced butter (Irish butter!) and spotted cream Originally experimenting with an old cooper brewer’s vat , Jane eventually settled on a signature blue cheese, as their first cheese, Cashel Blue. This pasteurized cow’s milk blue is a classic. Made from a “closed” herd of Friesian cows it can stand with the other blues such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton yet has it’s on flavor personality. When it is young, (3-4 weeks),it is sweet and delicate with just the slightest tang from salt at the tip of the tongue. Its texture is thick and creamy with a buttery color. Cashel ages well (up to 12 weeks), becoming more creamy and pronounced with earthy tones while remaining balanced. It is sweet and carries a spicy note to its creaminess.
Now, fast forward to 1993, Jane is training Geurt van den Dikkenberg a well versed Gouda maker, on how to make Cashel. Over the hill her nephew has started to raise milking sheep, a rarity in Ireland. A number of circumstances related to these two happenings led to the happy re-interpretation as Crozier Blue, Ireland’s only sheep’s milk blue cheese:
A Crozier (or Crook) refers to the hooked staff either carried by a bishop as of pastoral office or by a shepard. The name Crozier Blue is a play on the fact that Crozier Blue is a sheep’s milk cheese and that it is in Cashel that St. Patrick converted the Irish. In fact, St Patrick’s “crozier” can be seen today in the Rock of Cashel.”
It’s profile carries a lot of taste but is sweet making it very approachable for newcomers to blue cheeses. Crozier carries notes of fresh cream, nuts and hay in the finish.
That’s right Cambozola. It’s German, blue and creamy. The name comes from its historical link to the Allgäu region where in 300 A.C. there was a settlement in Bavaria called Cambodunum where the craft of cheesemaking flourished.
Now before you say, ‘well I don’t care much for blues they are too strong, too stinky’ consider this one, as it is creamy, has barely any blue veining and as any cheesemonger will tell you, it’s a perfect introduction to blue cheeses.
First a little more context from German Foods, “…75% of Germany’s cheeses are produced in Bavaria, the areas of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt in the northern part of Germany also produce some of Germany’s more famous cheeses.” The milk from Bavaria is rich, as the cows graze on valley grass. In the 1970s Germans were the first to discover that a white rind brie cheese matured beautifully with the injected penicilium roqueforti mold. This produces a smooth, soft-ripened, mild triple cream.
Delicious on it’s own it, go uptown on a roast beef sandwich or on a grilled burger. Now who was afraid of blue cheese?
And once you graduate from this cheese move on to the Cambozola Black Label. Holy cow! First you notice that the rind carries a gray mold adding the slighest hint to the the flavor profile. Longer cold-ripening in special cellars the process shifts the overall look (lots more blue veins), taste and texture elevating its flavor profile with a bit of a nutty, sweet finish along with a more pronounced blueh-ness with a buttery finish. This variation is aged for 5 1/2 weeks compared to 2 1/2 weeks for the traditional Cambozola.