28 January 2007

le penicillium roqueforti

Roquefort (Carles, France). Unpasteurized sheep's milk,
aged 3 months, semi-hard.

Perhaps it’s best that we keep the penicillium roqueforti on the back burner until we get some basics down, no? We’re dealing with the second most popular cheese in France, a raw sheep’s milk, stinky, salty, green mess of goodness. With such money on the line the “appellation d’orgine contrôlée" is of course in full swing, though lest you think that Roquefort is an invention of shrewd late 20th century marketing, Charles VI accorded the inhabitants of Roquefort a monopoly on the unique production process in 1411, and Pliny the Elder seems to have had some kind words for a cheese bearing a striking resemblance to our current stinky subject.

The trick is to drop some specially made rye bread into a cave in the south of France, leave it there for six to eight weeks, and then harvest the mold. Fresh white cheese is brought into the “cave,” the aforementioned penicillium spores are released into the air (rather than directly into the cheese, so that the fermentation happens evenly), and the tell-tale green ashy flakes start showing up in a few weeks. Three months in, the color is most evident, and then as the cheese ages, some of the green mold flakes start to disappear.

For my tasting I had to choose between a Roquefort Carles and a Roquefort Societé Bée, and I went with the former because it seemed a bit less dry, more sloppy, and, for better or worse, a dollar more. I like the ammonia aftertaste that makes your eyes squint, but I have to admit that I think that I prefer my blues a bit less salty. The pungency is, however, down right glorious, and I think that armed with the right baguette (crackers don’t seem to carry the mold, perhaps), Roquerfort would be a good way to end a cheese platter, a place to work up to through some more mild or subtle options.

Feta Kuti, 30 Januray 2007


  1. Wow. This cheese was smelly, moldy:, and very sharp on the tongue. It is often unpasteurized, fromsheep's milk, and very very blue and crumbly. Whole Foods buys it for $30-$35 dollars a point from a regional importer. This is the cheese that is famous for maturing in the caves of the French countryside. I actually liked it a lot, more so than the Italian Gorgonzola we tried. I think that of the three blues I have tried so far (Stilton from Colston-Bassett in UK, Gorgonzola from Lombardy, and this Roquefort from Carles, France) this is my order of favorites: 1) Stilton, Colston Bassett creamery 2) Roquefort, Carles, France, 3) Gorgonzola, Lombardy, Italy. The Roquefort has a biting, 'blue' taste but the blueness is full and the background taste is creamy enough to complement the mold. Surprisingly, it even tasted a little sweet after a couple of minutes of the blue. The piece I had was overwhelming in taste (and sinus-clearing:) but that's sort of the nature of this cheese: it doesn't intend to supplement a flavor because, in medium-sized pieces, it IS the flavor! Having said that, I think Roquefort is fairly versatile, though, in small crumbles; I know I have seen it sprinkled over salads and as the main part of a pasta sauce, for example. Sharp, acrid, full tatse, moldy, excellent.

    Roquefort (Carles, France): 7.0 slices

  2. roquefort was certainly bold and i can see why it has been describe as "the king" of cheeses. it was upwards of $30/lb at my boutique cheese shop. i preferred the gorgonzola to the roquefort, just because the gorgonzola was understated. roquefort was outspoken in every way. i actually think that if you pick an adjective you can wrangle roquefort into it.
    blue: sure.
    creamy: sure.
    nutty: sure.
    sweet: sure.
    and so forth.
    so it runs the gamut, but i think this confusion, although appealing, diminishes the cheese in my eyes. i prefer a cheese that does one thing really well. roquefort does many things adequately. if i were to wife a cheese, roquefort might well be the one, but the whole point of tasting is to get around. i say that for the cost, the gorgonzola or the stilton would be a better bet - and more interesting individually.
    Papillon Roquefort gets 6.5 slices.

  3. This cheese can indeed be like a high maintenance bride, in some settings (Gouda is on the money). One thing that Feta mentioned stood out on my Roquefort Carles as well: SALTINESS. Mine was so salty; it was like the cumulative experience of licking the hind leg of a smoked, salted pig while drinking large amounts of soy sauce. Anyway, I believe in cheese making, normally, that the curds are salted as the controlled spoilage begins so that the spoiling process can be slowed down and controlled. But is it for taste at all? Does anyone know the details about salt and making Roquefort?

  4. I'll preface the following comment with a statement of the (obvious) fact that I am a novice novice amateur. Perhaps this cheese was a little beyond my expertise, but I'm a texture person, and it was too slimy for me. And very salty. Perhaps it would have been better with bread to mellow it out a little. I too preferred the gorgonzola.... I felt it was more accessible.

  5. Hello to all blue cheese fans !...I have been looking for the taste and aesthetic criteria for the perfect blue to try to create in my bat cave. your thoughts to help create this new blue? ... For those of you that love the stuff...what is it that your ideal blue needs.

    Heres my take: Only slightly softer than a stilton (semi-dry), with a softer rind, no mushy cheese that can't stand on its own... creamy... melt in you mouth with a 3-5 second delay, without chalk or glue, salt that enhances but leaves your blood pressure alone... blue green travertine marble in appearance, tang like fresh pepper on an heirloom tomatoe, muted by sweetness, a nobel strength yet mixed with carmel. Nose like a fresh wild porchini and ...raw milk by capricorn herself.

    your help appreciated

    try the french goat blue Beillevaire de Bocage and see if you can improve it to get where I would like to go...or the italian verdecappra which is less complex. Both of these are far more my taste than the roqueforts
    what say you????

  6. it is very interesting to read all of you and the description of the cheese ...
    ? How can you compare Gorgonzola to Roquefort I don't see the point?
    It is not made out of the same milk
    it doesn't have the same consistency the gorgonzola is harder and stick together more easily the Roquefort is soft like butter
    Gorgonzola can be compare to the bleu d'auvergne ou la fourme d'ambert. it's like comparing roquefort and brie
    But THE ROQUEFORT is a totaly different cheese and I don't recommand it for salad or cooking the bleu is better for that