Blue Cheese, sensations and variations.

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To this author's taste, there are few things more satisfying to the tastebuds than blue cheese. Now, you may be aware of blue cheese as a salad dressing, and perhaps have had it crumbled over a steak, but are you aware of the subtle variations of blue cheese available to you?

What is Blue Cheese?

Simply put, blue cheese is any cheese with a bluish mold purposely grown on the cheese as it is aged. Blue cheese is traditionally aged in caves, where the mold lives, for a few months to over a year. There is a distinctive "musty" smell associated with various forms of blue cheese, and blue cheese is usually a "soft" cheese, which can be served dried or moist.

Blue or Bleu?

While many use the two spellings interchangably, technically, a "Bleu" cheese is aged in France. In this author's opinion, the finest Blue's do come from France, in the form of the specialty cheeses discussed below. However, some excellent Blue's are made in countries across the world, including Europe and the United States. Generally, if it is not made in France, it's a "Blue".

What are some forms of Blue Cheese?

There are many variations of this luxurious food. The cheeses are generally named for the region in which the cheese is aged.

As stated before, your standard "blue" cheese can be made just about anywhere. Due to the organic nature of the aging process, a cheese labeled "blue" can vary quite a bit. An excellent blue will be moist but not soggy, be squishy and crumbly to the touch, and emit the trademark musty smell. The cheese should be white with greenish-blue molding. The taste is salty to the tongue and a bit bitter to the palate. If your cheese smells of ammonia, it is generally un-edible, although it will do you no harm.

"Stilton" is a blue from England. It is drier than a standard blue, and its coloration a little yellower. Because of its hardness, it is usually not sold crumbled but in a wedge or wheel. To the taste, the molding is a bit sweeter, the cheese a bit more bitter than standard blue. The odor is also a little "funkier" than the standard blue.

"Double Gloucester" is also an English cheese, and unique in that it incorporates a blue-like cheese with a harder, cheddar like cheese. The two tastes combine to make a unique concoction that will appeal to many cheese lovers. The taste is a combination of the blue and cheddar, and smell likewise.

The king of blues is "Roquefort". Made only in the Roquefort region of France, this excellent cheese is truly the food of the Gods. Roquefort has an especially salty taste, and is best served very moist. Roquefort is an acquired taste, and is the most expensive of the blues, sometimes more than $8 a pound. Any lover of Blue cheese must treat himself to Roquefort!

What are the best ways to enjoy Blue Cheese?

There are many ways to enjoy this wonderful food. Making your own dressing for salad is a simple and satisfying start. The New York Times Cook Book offers this excellent recipie:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (or roquefort)
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped onions (I prefer red onions)
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cayenne to taste.

Combine all ingredients and chill until ready to serve. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Blue cheese is excellent served crumbled over any meat, or a fillet of whitefish. Crumble it over baked potatoes, sprinkled on a wedge of lettuce with chopped bacon, or even on a hamburger. The author's personal favorite method of consumption is simply with a glass of port or a hearty burgundy. Any way you decide to enjoy it, give yourself the time to enjoy the odor and texture on each bite.


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