Well before we answer that question, we should first all be on the same page that blue cheese is not a cheese all by itself. It really is just a categorization of many cheese varieties that are best known for the blue streaks of mold in them.
Yes, it is mold. Yes, it is put there on purpose. Yes, a lot of people are completely repulsed by blue cheese but there are many more who love it. I have always heard that it is a taste that must be acquired. But if that is the case, how come I’ve witnessed a 3 year old devour blue cheese and love it! Man did she stink though! Whew!!
Is it Bleu Cheese or Blue Cheese?
Well, that depends on where the cheese is from. Bleu is French for blue so if the blue cheese you are referring to is from France, I’d write it Bleu. But that’s also kind of dumb. If it is going to be written bleu, it should be called ‘fromage bleu’ instead of bleu cheese. Why mix two languages….but I digress onto my “I love the French language and get sick of how people mess it up so badly” soapbox. Excuse moi, s’il vous plait.
Bottom line, if you live in America, you should probably just play it safe and write it as ‘blue cheese’.
What is the difference between varieties of blue cheese?
In general, all blue cheeses are made from either cow, sheep or goat’s milk and have a mold added to them. The mold can be added at different times of the production process (i.e., before or after curds are formed) and can be many different varieties of mold. The most common are versions of the mold Penicillium from the local region where the cheese is made.
After that, each variety of blue cheese varies on the time it ages, type of milk used (cow, milk, goat), specifications for the variety and many other details in the process.
Gorgonzola versus Roquefort versus Stilton
The first and foremost difference between each of these is where they are made. All of these are protected to only be called Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton based on being made in an specific region. It is really no different than sparkling wine made in Champagne being the only sparkling wine called Champagne or sweet onions grown in Vidalia, Georgia being the only sweet onions called Vidalia.
Gorgonzola cheese is produced in a small area of Northern Italy and is made from either cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Penicillium glaucum is what is added to the cheese.
Roquefort cheese is made in a small area of Southern France from sheep’s milk with penicillium roqueforte added during processing.
Stilton cheese is produced in a small area of England
Maytag Blue Cheese is produced in the US, Iowa to be exact. It is made by Maytag Dairies and thus gets its name from the folks who invented their version (instead of a region of the US). It is made from cow’s milk.
Cabrales cheese is a blue cheese made in Spain.
Danish Blue is made where? That’s right.
Irish Cashel – you get the point yet?
There are many other varieties of blue cheese, too many to list here.
How do you choose a mild blue cheese or a strong blue cheese?
In general, the younger the cheese, the more mild it will be. The younger cheeses are also creamier. The older cheeses are stronger and more crumbly.
According to my local cheese expert, Danish Blue and Gorgonzola are considered more on the mild side for a blue cheese and Roquefort and Maytag are generally on the strong end of the spectrum.
In McNack’s first Mystery Basket Challenge, we had an American made blue cheese from Point Reyes in the basket. Another great choice, if you like blue cheese!
As for me, I’m still trying to acquire that taste. But remember, don’t go overboard eating blue cheese at a cocktail party. If you do, bring some breath mints!!!