Types of blue cheese and how to choose, store, and enjoy it.
How often have you stood in front of the specialty cheese case looking at the vast variety of blue cheeses and wondered which is the right one for you?
Blue cheeses come in many guises. Some have natural rinds, others are rindless or waxed; there are Ashed Blues, Blue Bries and extra-rich Triple Cream Blues; you will even find Blue Cheddars and Cheshire-style Blues. Textures vary from soft and creamy to firm and crumbly. You can buy them cut from the wheel, in wedges or individually waxed rounds. With all the choices out there, one may wonder how blue cheeses came to be.
Did you know that the city of Gorgonzola, Italy lays claim to being the first to produce this signature blue veined cheese and perhaps the first blue cheese known to the world? Ancient lore tells us that a young “casaro” (cheesemaker) is purported to have been distracted by his lady-love and accidentally left his cheese curds to drain overnight. Hoping to hide his mistake, he mixed them in with the morning curd and a few weeks later noticed bluing. Upon tasting the cheese, he realized he had made an unintended but delicious discovery and Gorgonzola cheese came into being.
Though the first Gorgonzola may have been a happy accident, there is no mistaking La Bottega di BelGioioso’s care and craft. It is a delicate process and is carried out under the watchful eye of Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Jeff Allen. We gather extra rich morning milk from both cows and sheep for our Gorgonzola cheese. Curd is gently ladled into hoops. Once the whey naturally drains away, each wheel is then hand rubbed with salt to create a distinctive rind. Finally, it is placed in a special cave to rest for 90 days where it’s allowed bloom and develop its’ wonderful earthy flavor.
Now, think back to the specialty cheese case and all the blue cheeses. Not only are there endless cheese choices, but there are just as many ways the cheeses are packaged. Most of them are shrink wrapped in plastic. This method of packaging cuts off the oxygen needed to keep the cheese alive. By killing the beneficial molds, the cheese breaks down and develops an undesirable flavor and texture.
At La Bottega di Belgioioso, we package our Gorgonzola in a way that allows the cheese to breathe. First, we hand wrap it with foil that’s custom made for blue cheeses. Next we then apply a plastic over-wrap that has micro-perforations that allow for oxygen transmission. Packaging our Gorgonzola this way keeps the cheese alive and gives it the best flavor.
Tips for choosing a blue cheese:
- Let your nose be your guide! Soft cheese has a meaty smell to it, and should never have an ammonia smell. That means the mold has died and the cheese is breaking down.
- The creamy and crumbly types of cheese have an almost herbal smell: Some say they smell a bit like grass. They will have a pungent odor, but again, if they smell like ammonia, steer clear.
- A firm blue cheese will have a nutty or smoky smell and should never have a strong, gamey odor.
- If you find the cheese is growing different colors of mold, its texture is changing, or it's just looking different from how it did when you originally got it, then it's best to throw it away.
How to Properly Store and Enjoy Your Gorgonzola Cheese:
- Blue cheeses are best enjoyed at room temperature, so allow them to sit for about a half an hour before serving.
- Re-wrap your Gorgonzola in the foil that came with it and place in your fridge's cheese drawer.