Visually reminiscent of the limestone cliff sides in which it is aged, Roquefort illustrates French artisanry like few others. A favorite among kings and popes, this classic blue mold cheese is made from sheep’s milk and is easily recognized by its blue veins stretching across its moist and crumbly body. It is creamy and aromatic, complex and intense, with sharp and tangy nuances.
While the unique characteristics of Roquefort are largely imparted from aging in caves near Toulouse in the southern part of France, the milk of the Lacaune sheep also plays a large role in the outcome of flavors. Grazing on pastures in Occitanie, the sheep are known to produce milk of sturdy character, rounded flavors and a high yield.
Pair Roquefort with honey and zesty apples. The salty profile of Roquefort also sits in perfect tune with meat.
Strict guidelines set the tone for how producers make Roquefort cheese, and following these is key to achieving the official label.
Tankers collect milk every day and deliver it to the creameries, fresh and unpasteurized. It is heated and poured into closed vats, then blended with a mixture of culture, penicillium roqueforti and rennet. Not only does this curdle the milk, the yeast also triggers the fostering of blue mold from the center of the cheese. Once firm, the curd is milled and shaped by molds that are left to drain in storage. A generous brine of salt is applied by hand, preventing an excessive growth of mold on the rind. Shortly after, the brined cheese is pierced with steel needles, allowing the blue veins to develop and breathe.
Naturally formed caves in the cliffs overhanging the village of Roquefort serve as the home of the cheese during aging, allowing it to absorb filtered moisture and flavors as time passes. Having aged for 20 days, the cheese is wrapped in foil, slowing the development of the blue mold. This allows the texture to soften, giving Roquefort its creamy consistency. After 3 months of ripening, the foil is removed, and the Roquefort is sent out to shops.
With no artificial flavors or preservatives, traditional Roquefort is unpasteurized and gluten free. However, it is not vegetarian due to the addition of animal rennet. Always be sure to check the label for additional information on ingredients.
In the long list of blue mold cheeses, all exude intense flavors and moist textures. When looking to substitute Roquefort, many cheeses bear a close resemblance.
Ranging from mild to pungent in taste, Gorgonzola offers a similar palate and consistency to Roquefort. This Italian classic boasts intricate flavors and great conformity, making it ideal in salads, on steaks or on your cheeseboard.
Vibrant, strong and full of personality, Stilton makes for a great stand-in, while also bringing qualities of its own. Slightly less intense than its French counterpart, traditional Stilton is robust with earthy hints of mushroom that subtly lace its strong and flavorful profile.
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