Blue cheese
Shepherds Purse Blue Cheeses

There are many myths and legends about the origins of blue cheese.

One of the most popular fables involves a shepherd boy tending his flock in the mountains. While sheltering in a cave to have lunch, he was disturbed and had to run off after his sheep – leaving his bread and cheese behind. When he returned a few days later, he discovered the cheese had turned blue.

The cool, damp atmosphere of a cave are perfect conditions for blue penicillium mould to thrive, as you know how quickly bread can go off even when kept warm and dry.

This, allegedly, is how the connection between penicillium fungi and blue cheese was made.

These days, thankfully, we don't have to climb mountains to make blue cheese – instead a Penicillium Roqueforte culture is added to the milk at the beginning of the process.

The hypertonic solution of penicillium is very potent and only a very small amount is required for a large vat of milk. There are numerous varieties of penicillium, which produce blue cheeses of different strengths of flavour.

Blue cheeses need to be matured in specific conditions, higher temperatures than the refrigerated store, and with higher humidity, a moist atmosphere is essential to encourage the blue to develop.

At periodic intervals during the maturation process the cheeses are spiked with stainless steel needles to allow the blue veins to develop.

The timing of this spiking process is critical to the unique development of the cheese, for instance the continental soft blue cheeses are pierced within the first week, whereas as Stilton cheeses are usually pierced at around six weeks.