It's a bracing 8°F out this afternoon. We've had the ground piled up with snow for all but a couple of days since early December. My trip to Key West is coming very soon, but in the mean time, what better way to chase away the midwinter blues than by making a midwinter bleu. This is my first attempt ever at a blue cheese.
Penicillium roqueforti is the name of the mold that gives the blue color to the veining in these cheeses. It comes from the cheese supply house as a powder in a foil envelope, much the way yeast does. The powder is finer than yeast and dark black. It goes in the warmed milk right at the start of the process.
For the most part, this was similar to making Camembert, which I have now done a bunch of times. The ripening, rennetting, curd cutting and draining is all pretty similar. I actually did most of that last weekend. A lot of folks think that the blue mold is injected into the cheese. It often looks so, with the blue veining following very linear channels through the interior of the cheese. That's not what's really hapening, though. P. roqueforti needs oxygen to grow. The cheese maker pokes holes through the cheese to allow oxygen inside. The mold only grows in the channels. I did the hole poking today, using a kebab skewer. The cheese will need my attention periodically, and won't be ready to eat until sometime after Labor Day.
Poking holes in the cheese
Something that doesn't have to wait until after Labor Day is the Camembert that I made before Christmas from raw Gurnsey milk. It's ready now- and absolutely delicious. It's very rich and a beautiful color. I'm very pleased with both the snowy white exterior (courtesy of the white mold) and the rich, creamy yellow of the interior (courtesy of the high butterfat content of Gurnsey milk). This one was my best cheese to date.