ACS, american cheese society, Appreciating the greats, blue cheese, certified cheese professional exam, cheese tastings, Roquefort Cheese, tasting cheese

Appreciating the Greats: Tasting Roquefort

Getting to know cheese requires at least four of the five senses: looking, touching, smelling and tasting. If you’re a cheese maker or affineur, then you would also bring in hearing to evaluate a full wheel of cheese by knocking on it.  Simply put, it takes a lot more than throwing a cube of cheese in your mouth to appreciate it. If you want to know it more intimately, then you study and evaluate it. Its color, aroma from paste to rind, texture on your fingers and your tongue. So much of this will help you go beyond having a passive appreciation of cheese.  

In the movie, “How to Cook Your Life,” Edward Espe Brown (author of the famed Tassajara Bread Book) is at the sink cleaning rice. He says something simple, “When you wash the rice, wash the rice; when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots; when you stir the soup, stir the soup.”  Which is to say, be in the moment of the task at hand.  When you taste cheese, close your eyes and focus on every sensation that’s going on. Take multiple bites of the same cheese until you feel you have a good sense of it. Pay attention because your first bite and your fourth bite will not taste the same. Your tongue and nose will pick up different notes as it moves around on your palate and opens up. 

As I take study breaks from preparing for the Certified Cheese Professional exam, I’m reintroducing myself to some of the greats of the cheese world that I have, I will admit, taken for granted and pushed aside for some newer, flashier wheels. I’m taking the time to get to know them again, like old friends, and first up is Roquefort.

History:

Roquefort has a written history dating back to at least 79 AD, though it is said that Ceaser’s centurians encountered it in the 1st century BC. It was also the first French cheese to be ‘protected’ by the French Parliment in the 15th century, then the modern AOC (Appelation d’origine Controlee, which has now been replaced by the European AOP) in 1925. The secret to Roquefort is the caves that dot Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, which are now owned by only seven cheesemaking companies in France.

Under the requirements for AOC, Roquefort must be: 

  1. All milk used must be delivered at least 20 days after lambing has taken place.
  2. The sheep must be on pasture, whenever possible, in an area including most of Aveyron and parts of neighboring départements. At least 3/4 of any grain or fodder fed must come from the area.
  3. The milk must be whole, raw (not heated above 34 °C; 93.2 °F), and unfiltered except to remove macroscopic particles.
  4. The addition of rennet must occur within 48 hours of milking.
  5. The Penicillium Roqueforti used in the production must be produced in France from the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon
  6. The salting process must be performed using dry salt.
  7. The whole process of maturation, cutting, packaging and refrigeration of the cheese must take place in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Tasting Notes: 
Milk: Raw Sheep
Brand: Coulet 
Appearance: 
     Rind: None, wrapped in foil
     Paste: Smooth, slightly creamy paste; off white in color, deeply pocketed with evergreen/blue veining
Smell: 
     Paste: Woodsy, mushroomy, fruity
Mouthfeel: Dense, like Mascarpone. Slightly granular texture with the molding.
Flavor: Upfront spiciness; slight sweetness, warming profile, like cinnamon or chile. Faint notes of liquorice or tarragon.
    

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12 days of cheesemas, blue cheese, cheese advent calendar, goat cheese, Monte Enebro, Spanish cheese

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 5

(photo from Formaggio Kitchen)

The mental image of blue cheese is a stark white canvas with a smattering of blue-green pock marks across, and through, its surface.

Monte Enebro is not that kind of blue cheese. 

This pasteurized Spanish goat’s milk cheese is not inoculated with peniciullium roqueforti and then pierced with a hollow needle, leaving room for the air to bloom it’s molds. This cheese is enrobed in it, leaving it’s spicy blue profile to linger at the end, rather than attack the senses on first taste.  The bright paste, when young, is tart and tangy. As the cheese ages, the milk turns bolder and more pungent–the grass traded off for that barnyard ‘goatiness’ that can alienate people to any goats milk cheese.

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12 days of cheesemas, blue cheese, cheese advent calendar, cheesemas, italian cheeses

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 2

(photo from Murray’s Cheese)

I’m going to confess to you that I don’t usually enjoy Gorgonzolas. Truth is, every time I eat some, the pungency of the mold seems to attack my sinuses. So, I have a hard time recommending them after such violence. But, then there’s Gorgonzola Cremificato.

Much denser than the Mountain or Dolce variety, this is more like someone took a pint of the finest Italian gelato and stirred in a bit of blue cheese. It’s more sweet and pepper than tanginess and bite. Pears, honey, caramelized walnuts. Pair what you’d like and cook with the whatever you happen to have leftover.

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12 days of cheesemas, blue cheese, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plate, pt. reyes original blue

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 5


(photo from VanillaGarlic)

Pt. Reyes Original Blue is one of those perfect blues. It’s bitey, peppery, salty, crumbly and doesn’t kill your palate or, as Gorgonzola’s have a habit of doing to me, flood my sinuses with an acidic burn. It’s pleasant and the blue most likely to appear in any recipe I make that calls for a veined cheese. Maytag may be one of the best known domestically produced blue cheeses, but Pt. Reyes is one of the tastiest.

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