Local Heart, Global Soul

October 8, 2011

Cheese to Cure the Blues…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m taking you on a virtual tour of one of the Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

This post is about a type of cheese that people either love or loathe, the Blue cheeses. For me since I’m allergic to mould, it’s simple, these cheeses are full of the stuff and not for me, but Himself is a lover of the  Bleu’s and indulges whenever he gets the chance.

Like many food variants around the world,  the first blue cheeses are said to have been derived from a serendipitous sequence of events, but the origonal  “where” it all took place remains ambiguous.

Caves have long been the natural cellars and ally of the cheese maker, temperatures remain more constant and the cool dark of the caves meant that cheeses could mature well.  Various fungi such as  Penicillium Glaucum or Penicillium Roqueforti are commonly found in caves that sport the right conditions and cheese makers found that cheeses stored in the caves to mature took on the spores of these fungi and slowly inherited the blue or green veined texture that is so prized by blue cheese lovers today.

Be they the famous (Italian) Gorgonzola,  (English) Stilton, (French) Roquefort , (Spanish) Cabrales , or (Danish) Danablu, these cheeses are soft and creamy with streaks of blue or green mould running though the cheese. These cheeses are  made from cows, goat, sheep milk or a combination of them all  and are generally strong,  both in smell and taste: often spicy, tangy with an edge that sets them apart from other cheeses.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Hand made bleu’s (blue cheeses)  are still “needled”  which means they have the air injected into the cheeses by hand, the air feeds the mold that is naturally occurring in the cave and so the process begins, but factory made bleu’s  these days probably have the mold mixed directly in with the curds, to ensure an even distribution.

In most cases these famous cheeses are returned to the caves where the mold occuers to be matured and like all cheese, the longer the ageing process the better the texture and the more intense the flavour.

Today, most cheesemakers use commercially manufactured Penicillium Roqueforti cultures that are freeze-dried.

The best advice that Himself gives is that while most bleu cheese lovers instinctivly go for the “big names”  of Gorgonzola,  Stilton,  Roquefort , Cabrales , or Danablu, that if you ever have access to this kind of cheese shop that you should try a few of the  other lesser known names because there are some gems of blue cheeses to be had that are not on the ‘big name”  lists.

Since these speciality cheeses are not easily opened for tasting, asking for  a piece to try from each packet is usually not done, besides, the cheeses are soft, expensive and sold in small increments of 100 grams rather than by the kilo of their  Boerenkaas counterparts.

However, in a place like Ed Boele’s it’s usual for a few of the Bleu’s to have their own promotional tasting plate at any given time, so if you like your cheese Bleu, Himself recommends a taste test  each time you visit so that you might discover some of the ‘other’ magnificent  bleu’s on offer.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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