As the name rightly suggests, blue (or bleu) cheese is characterized by blue spots or streaks. Like other types of cheese, blue cheese is also made from the milk of cow, sheep, or goat. However, cultures of the mold Penicillium are used in this cheese. In fact, the blue streaks/spots are formed by the action of this mold. The color of the veins may vary between gray, blue, and bluish green. Apart from the bluish veins, this type of cheese has a specific smell, which could be due to the action of the mold or certain types of bacteria.
There are various types of blue cheese, like Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Danablu, benedictine bleu, and Lanark blue. Most of the popular blue cheese types carry a protected designation of origin to show that a particular type is made in that region. For example, Roquefort is indigenous to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the south of France, and this cheese is made from sheep's milk. Likewise, Gorgonzola is an Italian variety made in the province of Gorgonzola in Italy.
Considered as one of the best types of cheese in the world, blue cheese has a strong and sharp flavor and tends to be more salty than others. Most of the varieties have a pungent odor too. Due to the strong flavor, it is not used in large amounts. This cheese can be consumed by itself or can be used over food in crumbled or melted form. It is usually used in fondue, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, risotto, and casseroles. It is also used as a condiment or appetizer and can be found in blue cheese dressing, veggie dips, and cheese sauce.
Some types of blue cheese, like sage blue and Cambozola are creamy in texture and mild in flavor. Roquefort, Gorgonzola dolce, and Gorgonzola dolcelatte are creamy and crumbly. The latter variety may have a thin rind and may vary in flavor from sweet and pungent to salty. Shropshire and Stilton are firm blue cheese with an earthy or smoky flavor. However, people with allergy to penicillin must exercise caution while having blue cheese.
How to Buy Fresh Blue Cheese
Fresh blue cheese is always preferred to those with additives like, preservatives that are used for increasing the shelf life. It is said that the fresh ones are the best to impart the authentic flavor of blue cheese. When it comes to texture and flavor, fresh cheese is always the best. How to check the freshness of the cheese?
One of the easiest methods is to check the date of manufacture and expiry date.
In case of soft creamy blue cheese, the smell resembles that of buttermilk, bacon, or beef. Creamy crumbly blue cheese is said to be similar to fresh milk, or grass, in aroma. Firm ones have a sweet, smoky aroma, like toasted nuts. The second and third variety can be strong smelling and sometimes carry a pungent aroma too. It has to be noted that, whatever may be the variety of blue cheese, a smell like ammonia should not be there.
Any change in color and texture may also be an indication of spoiled cheese. It has been observed that blue cheese packed in tin foil may gather moisture just beneath the covering. So scrape off the rind before using such cheese. If the cheese has become too moldy, it may develop a damp, bitter, and moldy smell. In such cases too, you have to discard it.
Check how the cheese is packed and stored. Usually, blue cheese is tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. Once you buy fresh blue cheese, you have to use it within one week from the date on which you opened the package. Firmer versions can be stored and used within two to three weeks. The most firm varieties like Stilton, should be wrapped in waxing paper and then plastic, before storing it in the refrigerator drawer. Other types can be stored as such in airtight plastic containers (make sure to poke some holes in it) before keeping it in the refrigerator. So find some authentic and cheap fresh blue cheese suppliers. You may also buy this cheese from online suppliers and check for the freshness before using it.