Blue cheese, also referred to as bleu cheese, is a flavorful variety of cheese whose origins go back centuries. Known for its sharp taste and distinct aroma, blue cheese is a favorite garnish of cooks when powerful flavor is called for. Blue cheese is produced from milk, which is carefully aged to encourage texture and the formation of flavorful mold. A range of blue cheeses is produced around the world; types vary based on flavor intensity, consistency and production methods.
This creamy blue cheese was a favorite of Emperor Charlemagne. The first reference to it appears in A.D. 79, when the historian Pliny the Elder admired its scent enough to record in his writings. Produced from the milk of red Lacaune ewes, Roquefort comes only from the Aveyron department of France. It has a unique aging process, which includes storage in caves near Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. This rich cheese is recommended with figs and nuts, or with wines such as Sauternes.
Named after the Northern Italian village where it was invented, Gorgonzola dates to at least the 11th century. It comes in two varieties, Gorgonzola Picante and Gorgonzola Dolce. Picante is aged for one year and has a sharp taste and crumbly consistency. Dolce is aged for 3 to 5 months to maintain a sweet flavor and creamy body. Gorgonzola can be legally produced only in the Italian regions of Novara, Vercelli, Cuneo, Casale Monferrato and Lombardy. Gorgonzola is recommended as an accompaniment to port wine.
Stilton's origins lie in 18th century England, and today it continues to be produced in in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Stilton is made from local pasteurized milk, which is aged for nine weeks and pressed into cylindrical molds. Stilton is crumbly and maintains an acidic taste that is recommended as an accent to salads and entrees. Shiraz, port, oloroso sherry and dessert or pudding wines are also recommended companions.
One of the newest blue cheeses is Ireland's Cashel Blue, also refereed to as Cashel Bleu. First appearing on the market in 1984, Cashel Blue is the country's first major blue cheese. The cheese is made by hand in County Tipperary, using the milk of local pedigree Holstein-Friesian cows. Cashel Blue is best served at room temperature and goes well with water biscuits and walnut bread. The cheese complements sweet, fruity wines as well as spirits such as whiskey.
Denmark's most famous contribution to blue cheeses is Danablu. Invented at the turn of the 20th century by Marius Boel, Danablu is a crafted today by four Danish companies. The cheese is aged for five to six weeks and after aging displays a blue-green marbling. Danablu has a creamy consistency and sharp, piquant flavor. The cheese is recommended with dark breads, red wines and fruit.
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