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how these blue cheeses are different (and nine ideal recipes for them)

22 mayo, 2021

Saline, intense on the nose and on the palate, full of character and very, very versatile, the range of blue cheeses is vast and, although there are many more varieties, There are several names in the kitchen and in the cheese shops that sound the most familiar to all of us..

We could talk about the hegemony that four blue cheeses They have over the rest, although the borders also mark that distance, but the world of blue cheeses is not a monarchy with a single king, but rather a quadriunvirate of four protagonists.

Spain and the cabrales; France and the Roquefort; Italy and the gorgonzola, and England and the stilton. There are cheeses that are close to their fame or economic relevance – we are not talking about flavor or quality – such as other cheeses from the Picos de Europa such as the Valdeón from León, the Cantabrian picón or the Asturian gamoneu, the French bleu d’Auvergne , the Italian bleu d’Aoste, the British Shropshire blue or the very commercial Danish danablu.

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All of them, despite being able to be quality cheeses, pale before the other four titans, full members of the Olympus of blue cheeses.

However, just because they are blue, slightly salty, sometimes spicy and always very smelly, it doesn’t make them exactly the same. So today We are going to tell you how they differ -and how they are the same- these cheeses as popular as they are tasty.

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The milk that they have given us

Photo 01 Asturian Dairy Cow From The Mountains Dairy cow of the Asturian breed in Picos de Europa.

Here democracy ends and each cheese goes, more or less, to its free will. We must first put a differential factor on the table and that is that these four bosses have protected designations of origin in the European Union, so in order for them to display their name, they must comply with those rules and be attached to the regulatory councils.

Within them are the conditions for production, which inevitably pass through milk, where the paths of cabrales, roquefort, stilton and gorgonzola separate.

  • Cabrales. The name of cabrales comes from the Asturian town and council where it is made, which will have been related to goats in the past. However, this cheese is the only one that can be made with a mixture of different milks (cow, sheep and goat) or only with cow’s milk, which is more accessible. When the mixture is of goat and sheep, the cheese is more intense and slightly spicier and, when it is made of cow’s milk, it tends to have a more yellowish paste. In either case, the milk used for a Cabrales must be raw.
  • Roquefort. The Louis XIV of French cheeses can only be made with raw sheep’s milk lacaune, which must come from the Aveyron area, the province where the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon village is located, the epicenter of production.
  • Gorgonzola. The term Gorgonzola also refers to the eponymous locality, in northern Italy, relatively close to Milan. In this case, the cheese can only be made with pasteurized cow’s milk and three versions are made of it: the bianco, without mold, the dolce, subtle, and the piccante, more intense.
  • Stilton. Officially there are two versions of stilton cheese (white and blue, although today we already know which one we are interested in) and in both cases pasteurized cow’s milk is needed.

An edible mushroom: Penicillium Roqueforti

Photo 02 Roquefort Cheese Cradle Roquefort cheese wedge

The only thing that equally democratizes the four is the presence of fungi of the genus Penicillium, which is the responsible for streaks between blue and green that are produced during the maturation of these cheeses.

However, the differences are already found when we talk about different species because three of our table companions are made with one type, the Roqueforti, and the last one, with Glaucum.

For practical purposes, the presence of these small molds does not imply any flaw in taste and, in fact, they are responsible for the flavors of these cheeses. On the contrary, banishing false beliefs, none of these cheeses engender eggs or larvae of any type of insect.

  • Penicillium Roquefortii. Includes Roquefort, Cabrales and Stilton. In some cases it is naturally present in caves such as cabrales and in others, such as Roquefort, loaves of bread are left in the caves themselves to develop mold that will later be inoculated into the cheese.
  • Penicillium Glaucum. It is only present in the gorgonzola of the four cheeses that we gut today.

The Penicillium family, which many of you will identify with the famous penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming, includes more than 300 different species and, contrary to popular belief, people allergic to penicillin are not allergic to these four cheeses. Nor are they to others that also have molds such as Camembertii (present in camembert or brie) and Candidum, present in cheeses such as sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, a creamy French goat.

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In any of these cases, the presence of mold is essential for the development of the cheese. Getting scientific, we can say that the presence of this mold inside the cheese inside the cheese, produces the breakdown of fat globules: lipolysis. A process that releases various compounds that are responsible for the blue cheese smell that we all easily identify. However, not only is mold responsible for the smell and taste, but also the ferments and the type of milk.

Cabrales Cheese Cut In It You Can See How It Has Not Been Pierced By Any Needle Cabrales cheese cut. In it you can see how it has not been pierced by any needle

Also, the battle is not present only in the type of mold, but also in how it is applied. This makes the cabrales different from his three companions.

  • Cheese without pricking. The very nature of the Cabrales caves is responsible for the presence of Penicillium Roqueforti mold spores in the environment and the one that allows the cheese not to be punctured so that the mold grows on the cheese. For this reason, you will see that the uniformity of the veins of a cabrales is not interrupted by a kind of cut well defined in green.
  • Punctured cheeses. With long, thin needles, Roquefort, Stilton and Gorgonzola cheeses are pierced to allow mold to colonize the interior of the cheeses, which is why you will see a kind of stringing inside the cut of these cheeses. As a curiosity, the stilton is the only one that is punctured horizontally, while roquefort and gorgonzola, both sweet and spicy, are made vertically. Also, in the case of these three cheeses, molds are added during the formation of the cheese, not during its maturation. It is also worth mentioning that in the case of the Stilton, the puncture occurs from the fifth week, having been carefully shaken (the rind of the cheese with a knife to avoid air inside) has been carefully so that the mold does not develop externally.

Also, as a final curiosity, it is curious that, unlike all other cheeses, an old blue cheese becomes softer and creamier. This is due to the presence of these molds, which continue to work the cheese and make it more unctuous. Just the opposite of what could happen with a Manchego, a Camembert or even a Parmesan.


Tender Roquefort Wheels After Several Days After Shaping The Curd Tender Roquefort wheels after several days after shaping the curd

All cheese needs to form the action of rennet, which can be vegetable, animal or industrial. These are responsible for the coagulation of the cheese, which in the case of our four protagonists will be enzymatic or mixed.

  • Mixed coagulation. Synthesizing the concept a lot, a mixed coagulation is where the acidity of the milk and the chosen rennet come into action simultaneously, both being responsible for coagulation. Both cabrales and roquefort and stilton adhere to this way of elaboration, being more intense blue, although coagulation is not by itself responsible for the intensity. However, mixed blues are commonly regarded as “strong blues” and enzymatic blues as “soft blues.” It is worth mentioning that in the case of stilton, once the cheese is curdled and drained, it is crumbled and the molds are filled with these crumbled portions. In the case of roquefort and cabrales, the cheeses, once set and drained, are shaped without this crumble.
  • Enzymatic coagulation. In the case of gorgonzola, it is the rennet enzymes that intervene together with the milk proteins. These coagulations allow more elastic and manageable clots for the cheesemaker, being much more malleable, they allow us to understand the large size that Gorgonzola can reach and why it is also transferred directly to the mold after draining.

The Secret in Their Eyes

Gorgonzola Cheese Cut Where Needle Marks Are Appreciated Gorgonzola cheese cut showing needle and eye marks

If you have noticed the morphology of these four cheeses, you will have realized that in addition to the blue and green streaks and veins there are also the so-called eyes.

The eyes of a cheese are formed by the presence of carbon dioxide during coagulation, which appears naturally thanks to the lactic acid bacteria in the rennet. However, you will see that there are many cheeses that do not have eyes, or that have very small eyes, such as a comté, a reblochon, an appenzeller or Spanish cheeses such as a manchego or a tetilla cheese.

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In the appearance of eyes, in addition to pressing, the type of milk also has to do, being more frequent that raw milk cheeses present eyes.

In the case of our blue cheeses, it is because after curdling, the cheese is pressed only by gravity, but is shaped but allowing those natural eyes to appear. The reason is that this makes it easier for molds to have air inside the cheese itself and therefore the desired tones, flavors and aromas of blue cheese are expanded.

Healing and maturing

Talameras With Cabrales Cheese Already In An Advanced State Of Maturation Talameras with Cabrales cheeses already in an advanced stage of maturation

However, it is in this last phase where a blue cheese is played and where its olfactory and gustatory role is acquired. The more ripe, the more mold development, less water and more intensity of flavor.

In this process, the size of the cheese also plays an important role, since a smaller cheese matures earlier and its flavors intensify, by that same rule of three, much sooner, and that now will help us to …