Before I list my favorite blue cheeses, you really need to consider the statement above. MOLD is something that occurs to bread or cheese or some other living, breathing substance that has overstayed its welcome on this earth. BLUE CHEESE is cheese that has been purposely allowed to share its very body with human-introduced organisms that have hue, substance, olfactory, and ultimately, flavor.
Bread mold is yucky. It won’t hurt you, but it isn’t doing you or the bread any good. Cheese “blueing” is miraculous, an alchemy. The mold your retina perceives as “blue” may actually be green. Or black. Or purple. In fact, the Italians refer to it as “erborinato,” which means “parsley-green.” They perceive the cheese mold as GREEN. It’s the French who perceive cheese mold as “bleu.”
Here are my favorite blue cheeses, and while I love many, many others, let’s just not mince words and get all rare and esoteric. Sometimes the bandwagon is the best place to be.
THE MASTER CHEESEMONGER’S FAVORITE BLUES
STILTON. With this cheese, quality can vary, which is why picking the right brand IS important, such as Long Clawson or Tuxford & Tebbutt. Stilton is England’s only name-protected cheese, made mainly in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, an area of rolling hills and valleys. To be called Stilton means that the cheese was produced in a certain area, using the milk from that area, and meaning it must be produced in a certain area, using milk from that area, as well as the recipe and aging guidelines set by the Stilton Cheese Makers’ Association. There’s simply no denying Stilton’s rightful place (as lofty as can be) in the annals of civilization and gastronomy.
GORGONZOLA. Either of the two varieties – DOLCE, that is, young, creamy, oozing, glistening Gorgonzola, which is why it’s also known as sweet or creamy gorgonzola; or STAGIONATO – also referred to as aged or mountain gorgonzola, that is, the cheese has been cave-aged to a firmer, bluer, more piquant stage of its life on earth. Indeed, it is often marketed Gorgonzola Piccante.
ROGUE CREAMERY SMOKEY BLUE. Rogue River Blue cheese is made at the Rogue Creamery in Rogue River, Oregon, by my friend Cary Bryant. This is a raw cow’s milk blue that weighs about a pound, and it is aged in Oregon pinot noir grapevine leaves that have been macerated in local pear brandy. It has won every award it can be given, it has been literally the first artisanal American blue cheese ever exported to Europe, and it may be the most expensive and delicious cheese I will ever taste. In fact, it’s SO expensive, we don’t offer it. Instead, we offer instead Cary’s Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue, a raw cow’s milk blue cheese that has been smoked with Oregon hazelnut shells. Sounds weird? Did to me, too. But I tasted it, and my knees buckled, it tasted so fine. And it’s about half the price of the Rogue River Blue.
ROQUEFORT. This intensely-flavored, sheep’s-milk cheese stands as the single most amazing humanity-driven food tale of all time. It’s one of the oldest known cheeses with ancient roots, and it’s created using special mold, namely “Penicillium roqueforti,” that grows on rye bread specifically baked for this purpose. This mold creates not only the color, but the distinctive taste and fragrance that alter the effect of that cheese entirely.
TELL US: What’s your favorite blue cheese? Which blue cheeses will you plan to eat on Moldy Cheese Day next week?