There are almost 2,000 different types of cheese out there, and nearly as many ways to classify them. Blue cheese itself has dozens of different types, all depending on how it is made and what it is made with. While the results are all very similar, the texture and taste may vary between them all.
In general, all types of blue cheese have a sour, almost spicy taste to them because of the mold. Some describe it as salty, but it can sometimes have a sweet undertone. It is usually very crumbly and is an excellent topping for salads. Blue cheese is also very fragrant.
The Many Different Types of Blue Cheese
Like all cheeses, there are subcategories within the basic label. There is white American, yellow American, deli cut, or prepackaged American… the list goes on. There are dozens of subcategories within the realm of blue cheese, but here are some of the most common.
Gorgonzola Blue Cheese
Gorgonzola Blue Cheese is named after the town in which it was first created, Gorgonzola, Italy. Gorgonzola is in the family of cheeses called stracchino; a type of Italian cow’s milk cheese. Gorgonzola Blue Cheese is said to have acquired its moldy blue veining around the 11th century.
Today, it is produced worldwide by adding starter bacteria with mold containing Penicillium glaucum. The firmness of Gorgonzola blue cheese is determined by how long it is aged. The typically aging window is three to four months. Younger Gorgonzola is sometimes sold as “Sweet Gorgonzola”, whereas the older cheese can be found under the name “Mountain Gorgonzola”, or “Gorgonzola Piccante”.
Stilton Blue Cheese
Stilton Blue Cheese originated in England, and while the credit for discovery is a bit wishy-washy, the earliest we see Stilton being brought about is 1720. The town of Stilton, Cambridgeshire was known for a variety of different cheeses.
The first official recipe for Stilton Blue Cheese on record we see is in 1726 by Richard Bradley. The ripening process for Stilton Blue Cheese is approximately nine to twelve weeks. The first person to market Blue Stilton cheese was Cooper Thornhill in 1730, and in 1736 the Stilton Cheesemakers Association was formed.
In order for the cheese to be officially marketed as “Blue Stilton”, it must meet certain requirements including having the classic cylindrical shape, being made with local pasteurized milk, forming its own crust, and containing blue veins coming from the center.
Stilton Blue Cheese is often paired with pears, celery, and broccoli. It is a great addition to soups, with crackers, bread, or biscuits.
Roquefort Blue Cheese
This is one of the world’s most popular Blue Cheeses, originating in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, Southern France. Unlike Stilton and Gorgonzola, Roquefort Blue Cheese is made with ewe’s milk.
The supposed legend of Roquefort Blue cheese is that it was discovered by a young boy who had abandoned his lunch of bread and ewe’s milk cheese and came back to find it months later. There are controversial claims of the cheese being mentioned as early as 79 AD.
The type of mold that gives Roquefort Blue Cheese its unique flavor is called Penicillium roqueforti, and is found in the local caves around the town. Cheesemakers learned to leave bread in the caves until they were consumed by the mold, and they would then extract it. Nowadays, the mold is grown in a lab.
Danish Blue Cheese
This is one of the milder versions of blue cheese and is often recommended for those who are new to eating blue cheese and are put off by the smell or the idea of mold. It also goes by the name Danablu, and is a newer cheese, having only been trademarked in the early 20th century. Its creator, Marius Boel, was attempting to emulate a Roquefort-style cheese but using cow’s milk.
The aging time for Danish Blue Cheese is eight to twelve weeks. It has a much milder flavor but is still salty and somewhat bitter. It has a creamy, soft texture and is often used as a dessert cheese with fruit. In Denmark, it is usually served on bread or biscuits.
Cayuga Blue Cheese
Cayuga Blue Cheese is actually an American cheese, meaning, it was made by Americans. It is made with goat’s milk, which can be challenging to work with. This cheese has a variety of different tastes and textures depending on its age, and it can vary from wheel to wheel.
Cayuga Blue Cheese was named after Cayuga Lake, in New York. It is typically aged for about 2 months and has been said to have a pungent flavor, sometimes mushroomy.
Cabrales Blue Cheese
Made in the artisan tradition by dairy farmers in Spain, this blue cheese can be made with pure unpasteurized cow’s milk or mixed with goat or sheep’s milk which makes for a stronger flavor. Cabrales Blue Cheese is aged for about 2 weeks before being moved to natural local limestone caves, where it is left to age another two to five months. The caves are typically very cool at 45°-55°, and usually about 90% humidity.
The first records of Cabrales Blue cheese come from around the 18th century, and though there are legends about people leaving milk in caves, it is unclear how exactly this type of cheese came about.
Why Is Blue Cheese So Expensive?
Blue Cheese has been around for centuries now, and the traditions are passed down through generations. It’s so important that certain countries have made laws protecting it.
There are two main reasons why Blue Cheese is so expensive; cost of supply and time spent.
Cheese that comes from cows’ milk typically takes about 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. That’s a lot of milking! Not only are these farmers raising, feeding, and caring for these animals, it takes about half an hour to get one gallon of milk from a cow… so you do the math. The milk then has to be turned into cheese, then the cheese has to be aged.
Blue cheese has a couple of extra steps as compared to other cheeses. Not only that, but many types of blue cheese, like the ones listed above, are imported from other countries, and that is likely where the price gap comes in. The average price per pound for blue cheese is $17.29 compared to American cheese at $3.91 and Cheddar at $5.32.
How Moldy is Too Moldy?
The type of molds injected into blue cheese are all members of the Penicillium family and are full of healthy bacteria that are safe to consume. This mold grows from the inside of the cheese. Refrigerated blue cheese is usually good for two to four weeks.
If you leave your cheese in the fridge and it starts to develop external mold, this needs to be removed and is not safe to eat. Fuzzy white, green, or gray spots growing on the surface of your blue cheese indicate that it has gone bad. Likewise, if it develops a strong odor similar to ammonia, it should be thrown away.
Health Benefits From Eating Blue Cheese
There is 150mg of calcium in just one ounce of blue cheese, along with 6 grams of protein and a number of vitamins and minerals. However, it also has a very high-fat percentage and is full of salt, so like any dairy product, should be consumed in moderation.
The mold used in blue cheese has antibacterial properties and can help fight pathogens. It also is a natural anti-inflammatory and can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Despite the many differences, styles and techniques used for blue cheese, there are similarities across the board. They are all infused with some strains of mold, and they are all aged for at least a month or more. Those two factors play the most into the taste and texture you will get from your cheese.
Most blue cheeses will have a pungent, musty smell and taste to them. It is an acquired taste that not all are lucky enough to have. Adding blue cheese to creams, sauces and dips is a good way to start introducing it into your diet.