The range of flavours in blue cheese vary dramatically, from a dense buttery stilton to sweet gorgonzola, or the seasonal burnt-caramel taste of the milk that is offset by the sharp and salty finish in Roquefort. All blue cheeses have a slightly spicy, metallic tang that is complemented by the saltiness of the cheese. The moister interior blues develop wide uneven streaks and pockets of blue, whereas the dryer rind blues have a denser texture that produces a more erratic line and intense pockets of blue mould.
There are a several stories behind the origan of blue cheese, these are a couple of my favourites; Roquefort is said to have been discovered by a young French shepherd who was grazing his flock in the Cevennes Mountains, a young French maid passed by and on the promise of a kiss the shepherd left his flock to follow the maiden. He returned days later, with quite an appetite, retrieving his lunch that he had hidden in a cave, only to find it was covered in blue mould. Upon trying his meal he found it quite delicious.
Another version: A group of French peasants where grazing there flock again in the Cevennes Mountains, when they were surprised by some brigands who drove off their flock. The shepherds fled, then returned days later to retrieve their frugal meal of bread and cheese, only to find it covered in a blue crust. Their hunger pains where so great they made a meal out of it only to find it very palatable.
Blue cheeses were once ripened in caves, which where havens for blue moulds, today the blue mould is added to the milk in a powder form and the young cheese pierced to allow air to enter and the blue mould to grow.
Blue cheese is an essential to any cheese plater but is also a wonderful addition to salad, it marries well with pears, walnuts and rocket. Blue cheese also makes a lovely sauce to serve with pasta or gnocchi. Blue cheeses need wines with both oomph and sweetness to balance their bold flavours and usually very salty, savoury body. Pair with: Muscat, red Port, Tawny Port, Sauternes, Tokaji, what a lovely way to finish a meal!