As a group, blue cheeses are said to be the most polarizing of the cheese “families.” You either love them or you hate them, and it is estimated that about 30% of people who enjoy a variety of good cheeses will nonetheless steer clear of blues. I myself love blue cheeses, in part because they are so much “the other” in comparison to all other cheeses. So, we are introducing a Blue Cheese of the Month program at Potash, to further give these great cheeses their due. But first, I want to tell you a little bit more about blue cheeses.
Blue cheeses are blue because the cheesemaker inoculates the milk (or the cheese) with specific strains of penicillin mold spores during the cheesemaking process. The mold has a dramatic effect on the properties of the cheese—adding a complex layer of acidic flavor. The mold only “sprouts" where air is available, so cheeses are usually pierced as the cheeses age, or, in some examples, the blue is grown only the cheese’s exterior.
Blue cheeses are very diverse. In some cheeses, such as Roquefort that acidic “blue attack” becomes dominant and takes the flavor to absurd dimensions. In other blues, like Stilton, or many cave-aged Americans, the blue bite is nicely balanced by the rich creaminess of the milk. It’s sort of like a spicy ingredient in ice cream, which can be pleasant and surprising. Personally, I think that a significant portion of the “no-blue” crowd could learn to love those balanced blues. Blues can be and are made from the same variety of animal milks as other cheeses. Many people don’t know, or forget that Roquefort, the most famous blue cheese, must be made from sheep’s milk. Italians enjoy Blu di Bufala (and you can too at Potash this fall) which is made from the milk of water buffalo.
At Potash Markets we carry a nice variety of blue cheeses--as many as 6 or 7 artisan blues in our gourmet cheese department at a given time--and we rotate through 10 to 15 throughout the year. There are outstanding blue cheeses made in nearly all of the great cheese producing nations, and we carry many of them (Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola) on a regular or rotational basis. But I am also excited about the fantastic variety of blues made by American artisans. Keeping those cheeses in the mix means that I can’t always have an Italian blue and I almost never have one of the rare Spaniards
Nearly all the blues in the rotation sell well, so I know that there are a lot of blue cheese lovers among our customers, and it seems that they enjoy variety. I want to continually expand that variety, and its one reasons for the Blue of the Month program. In addition, I hope to win over some of you who have some reluctance toward blue cheeses, and finally, for those of you who are fans of particular blues, we will keep a running 6-month calendar on the cheese page of our website so that you know when the Gorgonzola Dolce or the Dunbarton Blue is coming back.
To kick things off, starting on Sunday, we will feature Point Reyes Bay Blue as our September Blue Cheese of the Month. Point Reyes is a fine farmstead cheese operation from Central California. Its Original Blue is one of our best-selling blues. Bay Blue is a cave-aged cheese which means it develops a
rustic looking rind and loses some moisture, resulting in a fudgy texture and a mellow flavor with notes of caramel in the finish. That blue attack is moderated in this award-wining cheese, so it should appeal to anyone who has some liking for blue cheese.
Stay tuned for more about blues. And please stop at the cheese counter at our State Street store to taste a couple.