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How to Classify Cheese

How to Classify Cheese

Some examples of hard cheeses, clockwise from top left: Emmentaler, aged provolalone, Gruyere, manchego, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, aged pecarino antico mugella, ricotta salata.

Culinary Institute of America

Blue-Veined Cheeses

Blue or blue-veined cheeses are thought to have been among some of the first cheeses produced. Although there is no specific research to prove the theory, it is believed that the mold was first introduced to cheese from moldy bread that had come in contact with the cheese.

In the modern production of blue cheeses, needles are used to form holes and introduce the mold to the cheese as well as to allow the gases to escape and oxygen to enter to support mold growth within the cheese. This process is why when you cut a wedge or cross section of factory made blue cheese, you will notice the bluing tends to follow those puncture lines vertically with little even horizontal growth. The cheese is then salted or brined and allowed to ripen in caves or under “cavelike conditions.” Some of the most famous blue cheeses are the French Roquefort, Italian Gorgonzola, English Stilton, Danish blue, and American Maytag blue.

Roquefort is made strictly from raw sheep’s milk and has been made since ancient times in the Rouergue area of southern France. It is made by introducing the mold while the cheese is still curds and before it has been molded or shaped. The mold Penicillium roqueforti is taken from moldy bread and grated into a powder before it is mixed in with the curds. The Roquefort Association, Inc., ensures that quality standards and name integrity are protected. Today the cheeses are still ripened in the caves of Cambalou for three months to develop their unique character. They may be eaten after the initial ripening but are more typically stored for an additional three to twelve months as the market allows.

One of the things that makes Roquefort unique is the fact that the mold is not grown in a laboratory, as are molds for many other blue cheeses. Instead, Roquefort mold is developed naturally from rye bread. Roquefort should therefore be highlighted for what it is, and when used in dips or dressings should be clearly identified on the menu.

Gorgonzola is another special blue cheese. Unlike Roquefort, Gorgonzola is made from cow’s milk, and its mold is from a completely different strain, which is now commercially produced. Gorgonzola is made with evening milk and the following day’s morning milk. There are two varieties available: sweet or “dolce,” which is aged three months, and “naturale” or mountain, which is aged further and has a fuller, more robust flavor.

Blue Cheeses

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