Blue Cheese Butter
Or Bleu Cheese Butter
Blue cheese is made from cow's milk or goat's milk aged in caves where the mold apparently develops naturally.
Today, blue cheeses (bleu cheeses) are either injected with the mold, as with Roquefort, or the mold is mixed right in with the curds, as it is with Gorgonzola.
Blue cheeses are fairly strong flavored. I think the best bleu cheeses are Stilton, Roquefort, Danablu and Gorgonzola. America's ‘Maytag Blue Cheese’ was developed by Iowa State University in 1941 (making blue cheese with pasteurized milk). Maytag blue is also aged in specially designed caves.
Try New Ones For Fun
It Is A Fabulous Gift!
When I was little I remember eating Macaroni and Cheese and grilled cheddar sandwiches. Not too much variety!
I also remember going to the grocery store with my mother and watching the grocer (or cheesemonger) cut off a piece from what seemed to me at the time, a huge wheel or brick or log.
Then, for a short period of time as a youngster, I would only eat Velveeta.
Trying new types can really be fun ...honest. You can try the products the way I like to. Find a gourmet shop and ask to sample some. It really is that easy!
Like wines and other fine foods, the best way to decide on your favorites is to taste them, and any good wine seller or cheesemonger will be happy to provide a sample before you buy.
If you don't have such a shop nearby, or sampling that way is not something you like to do, go to "Plan B." You can join a monthly club. Try it. You'll love it.
Another way to try different types (Plan "C") is to invite a few friends over and ask each one to bring one they want to try and share.
Make up a tray or "tasting table" and have several wines or beers available to try with the product. You might want to set a theme for each time you do this. Have some fun!
Is there a Farmer's Market nearby? You will often find local cheesemakers there. This is really a fabulous way to learn. Most small cheesemakers sell organic products. I am a believer in buying such product whenever I can find it. I am also fortunate in having several organic cheesemakers near my home.
There are hundreds of types produced all over the world. But until recently it seems most Americans settled into buying the same four or five every time they went to the store. I believe this is just a habit developed as a result of not knowing what else to try. Cheddar, Mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan and some Blues are "known" and "safe."
Some time ago, even before I started the restaurant, I began trying different selections and found a number I really liked. I also discovered some that I really did not care for.
Often the ones I personally didn't like were pungent or very strong-flavored. But then I learned something else. Some of these need to be eaten with certain other kinds of food or with certain kinds of beverages to be enjoyed.
Today many people are beginning to understand the huge variety available from all over the world and they are more interested in trying them. I see this interest from my restaurant guests. When I introduce a "new" one in a recipe, or on an appetizer plate, they are more and more open to trying it. And they even seem surprized they like it.
Cheese is made from the curdled milk of certain mammals, primarily cows, goats, and sheep.
The milk is curdled using some combination of rennet (an enzyme) or more and more often, rennet substitutes, and acidification. Bacteria acidify the milk and play a role in determining texture and flavor.
Some also feature molds, either on the outer rind or throughout. (Note: people highly sensitive or allergic to molds should avoid these.)
Different styles and flavors are the result of using different species of bacteria and molds, different levels of milk fat, differences in length of aging, different processing treatments and different breeds of cows, goats or sheep. Other factors include the animals' diet and the addition of flavoring agents such as herbs, spices, or wood smoke. Whether or not the milk is pasteurized may also affect the flavor.
No one system of categorizing satisfactorily works to address all the diversity available. Categorizing by firmness and texture is common but not exact.
The lines between "soft", "semi-soft", "semi-hard", and "hard" are often blurred, and many types are made in softer or firmer variations. Harder ones have a lower moisture content than softer ones. They are generally aged for a longer time.
The term “fresh” is used to describe selections that have not been aged, or are very slightly cured. These have a high moisture content and are usually mild and have a very creamy taste and soft texture.
This category includes Italian Style Mascarpone, Ricotta, Chevre, Feta, Cottage and Cream Cheese.
The term “soft-ripened” describes those that are ripened from the outside in, very soft and even runny at room temperature. The most common soft-ripened ones have a white, bloomy rind that is sometimes flecked with red or brown. The rind is edible and is produced by spraying the surface with a special mold, called penicillium candidum, before the brief aging period.
“Semi-soft” describes selections that have a smooth, generally, creamy interior with little or no rind. These are generally high in moisture content and range from very mild in flavor to very pungent.
Examples include blue, colby, fontina styles, havarti and Monterey Jack. Also, a lot of washed rinds fall into this category but are described separately below.
Firm or Hard
This is a very broad category. Their taste profiles range from very mild to sharp and pungent. They generally have a texture profile that ranges from elastic, at room temperature, to the hard ones that can be grated.
This category includes gouda styles, most cheddars, dry jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler) styles, Gruyere styles, many “tomme” styles and Parmesan styles.
These have a distinctive blue/green veining, created when the penicillium roqueforti mold, added during the cheesemaking process, is exposed to air. This mold provides a distinct flavor, ranging from fairly mild to strong and pungent. Blues are found in all of the categories above, except for Fresh.
Common examples are the French (roquefort), the Italian (gorgonzola) and the Danish blues.
This is a whole family of styles, mostly of Italian origin. These are cooked and kneaded. This family of styles can range from very fresh to hard grating.
The pasta filata family includes Italian style Mozzarella, Provolone, and Scamorza.
“Natural rinds” have rinds that are self-formed during the aging process. Generally, no molds or microflora are added, nor is washing used to create the exterior rinds, and those that do exhibit molds and microflora in their rinds get them naturally from the environment.
Because most natural rinds are aged for many weeks to develop their flavor as well as the rinds, many natural rinds are made from raw milk.
The French Tomme de Savoie and Mimolette style, the English Stilton (also a blue) and Lancashire style are examples.
These are surface-ripened by washing the product throughout the ripening/aging process with brine, beer, wine, brandy, or a mixture of ingredients, which encourages the growth of bacteria. The exterior rind of washed rind cheeses may vary from bright orange to brown, with flavors and aromas that are quite pungent, but the interior is most often semi-soft and, sometimes, very creamy.
This category includes some tomme-styles, triple-crème and semi-soft styles similar to Epoisses, Livarot and Taleggio.
What is Artisan?
The term “artisan” means something quite specific. An artisan cheesemaker (or farmstead cheesemaker) must raise the milking animals on the same land where the milk is turned into the product. Most artisan cheesemakers raise their animals humanely and organically.
As a result, supplies are limited due to seasonality and production capacity. I believe many of these are premier products.
Ever Popular Cheddar - The Poor Man's Gift?
Cheddar is named after the town of Cheddar is southwest England.
In olden times, the amount of fat in the product (resulting in richness) had to do with how poor the farmer was. Richer farmers could make theirs from full-fat milk, while poor farmers removed the fat to make butter for sale, then made cheese from the skimmed milk. Presto - cheddar!
Cheddar goes well with port, white wine, or red wine. It’s a very universal cheese, appropriate for trays and cooking.
Some Famous French Selections
France's rich pastureland and varied climates lends itself to creating the greatest variety of products in any one country ---over 400!
Brie de Meaux (cow)
Brillat Savarin (cow)
Crottin de Chavignol (goat)
Fourme d’Ambert (cow)
Pierre Robert (cow)
Pont l’Eveque (cow)
Port Salut (cow)
Tomme de Savoie (cow)
Some Famous Spanish Selections
Spanish cheesemakers' combinations of goat, sheep and cow milk into single products makes for a variety of choices.
Cabrales (goat, cow, sheep)
Drunken Goat (goat)
La Serena (sheep)
San Simon (cow)
Torta del Casar (sheep)
What Is A Dessert Selection?
Technically, there is no such thing. Some people use the terminology to describe the process of eating some after a meal, maybe to finish with the remaining wine that was not consumed before or during the meal.
These selections are not necessarily sugary sweet (although in America they frequently are). They do tend to be rich and creamy. Blues are one of the most popular. They go great with red wine and port, but also with sweet accompaniments like fruit and jam.
Some Famous Dessert Selections
Single-Crèmes (over 50% butterfat)
Camembert (France and elsewhere)
Double-Crèmes (over 60% butterfat)
Crema Dania (Denmark)
Cream Cheese (US)
Triple-Crèmes (over 70% butterfat)
Brillat Savarin (France)
Mt. Tam (California)
St. Andre (France)
Du Village (Canada)
How Do I Set Up A Tray?
I usually have at least three and as many as five cheeses. Having at least three to five allows me to offer an interesting variety without being too extravagant.
I allow about 3 ounces per guest if we are just tasting or it's an appetizer plate before a meal. If I want these as a main course I have 6-7 ounces per person.
The other thing I like to do is select ones that combine styles, textures and colors (see "pairings" below). I like to offer different looks, tastes, and feels such as one soft-ripened, one hard and probably a blue. And if I am serving more than three, I like to add one or two with different flavor and color.
Occasionally I'll have a theme tray, such as all blues or all local ones.
When I have guests coming I realize some are great cheese lovers and some are "beginners." I try to offer a variety of flavors, with enough mild ones available so everyone can be accomodated. If my tray offered all "stinky" selections, some of my guests would have to stop at a fast food place on the way home.
I usually have a couple kinds of artisan breads or baquettes and interesting crackers, as well as apples, pears, nuts and dried fruit as part of the tray.
I arrange my tray at least an hour or two before my guests arrive. Cheese needs to sit at room temperature for full flavors to be enjoyed. I provide one knife for each selection so flavors don't mingle.