It doesn’t take a scientist to work out that blue cheese takes its name from the blue color of the mold used to ripen it and give it its distinctive flavor. But the intricate process of making this delicacy is certainly a science or even art.
Blue cheese falls into the genre of cheeses that have had cultures of the Penicillium mold or other various specially cultivated bacteria added to them so that the final product features blue-grey mold or blue mold and has an unyielding, distinctive smell. The characteristic flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharp and salty, which work alongside the distinctive smell to create a unique and rather unforgettable sensory journey.
The blue cheese-making process begins with stirring and cutting the curd and removing the whey. Next, the curd is poured into forms, and the cheese is brined, stacked on large racks and moved to curing rooms. The cheese is made into 14-inch-high drums about 8-9 inches in diameter, and weighing about 17 lbs and typically aged in a temperature-controlled environment such as a cellar or a cave.
After six to eight days, the heads are pierced with stainless-steel wires, allowing oxygen to flow to the cheese’s center and enabling maximum growth of the mold. Once the desired level of mold growth has been reached, the heads are rinsed with water and sealed in airtight plastic bags, which are transferred to a maturation room with a temperature of 39 F to 42 F.
The mold continues its work, breaking down the fats of the cheese to release the strong, characteristic blue cheese tang. After six to eight weeks, the cheese is ready to be cut into portions and packaged. Blue cheese can be eaten by itself or can be crumbled, melted, broken or spread into or over foods.