Are you a fan of blue cheese? Have you ever wondered how those distinctive blue veins are created?
Contrary to popular belief, copper wire is not used in the process. Instead, cheesemakers use stainless steel needles to pierce the cheese and allow oxygen to reach the mold, which grows naturally during the cheesemaking process.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how blue cheese is made and dispel some common myths along the way. So sit back, grab a cracker, and let’s dive into the world of blue cheese!
How Is Blue Cheese Made Copper Wire?
As mentioned earlier, copper wire is not used in the production of blue cheese. The blue veins in the cheese are actually created by a specific strain of mold, Penicillium roqueforti, which is added to the cheese vat during the cheesemaking process.
To ensure that the mold grows evenly throughout the cheese, cheesemakers use stainless steel needles to pierce the cheese. These needles create air holes that allow oxygen to reach the mold and promote its growth. The size and quantity of needles used will determine the amount of blueing in the cheese.
It’s important to note that while some artisanal cheesemakers may use other materials such as knitting needles to pierce their cheese, most commercial cheesemakers use stainless steel rods for consistency and hygiene reasons.
The History Of Blue Cheese
The history of blue cheese dates back centuries, with its origins traced to the caves of Roquefort in France. The story goes that a young shepherd left his lunch of bread and cheese in a cave while he went off to tend to his flock. When he returned, he found that the cheese had developed blue veins and had a distinct flavor that he had never tasted before.
This discovery led to the creation of Roquefort cheese, which is still made using the same traditional methods today. The caves where the cheese is aged provide the perfect environment for the growth of Penicillium roqueforti, the mold responsible for the blue veins.
Over time, other types of blue cheese were developed in different regions of Europe, each with their own unique characteristics. In Denmark, Danablu was created in the early 20th century by cheesemaker Marius Boel as an attempt to emulate Roquefort-style cheese.
As technology and cheesemaking techniques evolved, so did the methods used to create blue cheese. While wooden rods were initially used to pierce the cheese and distribute the mold evenly, they proved to be unreliable and unsanitary. Cheesemakers eventually turned to other materials such as copper wire before settling on stainless steel needles as the best option.
Today, blue cheese is enjoyed all over the world and is used in a variety of dishes from salads to sauces. Despite its pungent aroma and strong flavor, it remains a beloved staple in many kitchens and a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of cheesemakers throughout history.
The Cheesemaking Process
Cheesemaking is a complex process that requires a great deal of skill and attention to detail. The process begins with the milk, which is typically sourced from cows, although it can also come from sheep or goats. The milk is heated and then mixed with rennet, an enzyme that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds.
Once the curds have formed, they are cut and drained to remove excess whey. The curds are then placed in molds and pressed to remove any remaining liquid. This process creates the basic structure of the cheese.
After the cheese has been pressed, it is removed from the molds and allowed to age. During this time, the cheese develops its flavor and texture. For blue cheese, Penicillium roqueforti spores are added to the cheese vat during the aging process. To ensure even growth of the mold, stainless steel needles are used to pierce the cheese and create air holes that allow oxygen to reach the mold.
The amount of time that blue cheese is aged can vary depending on the desired flavor profile. Typically, blue cheese is aged for around 8-12 weeks, although some varieties may be aged for longer.
Once the aging process is complete, the cheese is ready to be packaged and sold. Blue cheese can be enjoyed on its own or used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes, such as salads, sandwiches, and dips.
The Role Of Mold In Blue Cheese
The mold used in blue cheese is a vital component of its unique flavor and appearance. The Penicillium roqueforti mold is a type of blue-green mold that is native to the caves of Roquefort, France. This mold is added to the cheese vat during the cheesemaking process, where it begins to grow and spread throughout the cheese.
The mold needs air to grow, which is why cheesemakers use needles to pierce the cheese and create air holes. As the mold grows, it produces enzymes that break down the proteins and fats in the cheese, creating the distinct flavor and texture of blue cheese.
The mold also plays a role in the appearance of blue cheese. As it grows, it forms veins of blue-green color throughout the cheese. The size and density of these veins can vary depending on factors such as the amount of mold used and the length of aging.
Debunking The Copper Wire Myth
Contrary to popular belief, copper wire is not used in the production of blue cheese. The myth likely originated from the fact that copper was once used in the production of Roquefort cheese, which is a type of blue cheese made in France. However, this practice has long been abandoned, and modern cheesemakers use stainless steel needles instead.
The reason for this change is simple: copper can be toxic if ingested in large amounts. While the amount of copper used in the cheesemaking process is small and unlikely to cause harm, it’s still better to err on the side of caution and use a material that is known to be safe.
Additionally, using copper wire can affect the flavor of the cheese. Copper is a reactive metal, and it can interact with the acids and enzymes in the cheese, altering its taste and texture. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is inert and does not react with the cheese.
Aging And Flavor Development
After the cheese is formed and pierced with stainless steel needles, it is left to age for 60 to 90 days. During this time, the cheese develops its distinctive blue veins and flavor.
The aging process is crucial to the flavor development of blue cheese. As the cheese ages, the mold cultures continue to grow and break down the fats and proteins in the cheese. This process softens the texture of the cheese and creates a complex flavor profile that is both tangy and spicy.
The stainless steel rods used to pierce the cheese during the aging process play a key role in the development of the cheese’s flavor. By allowing oxygen to circulate through the cheese, the rods encourage the growth of mold and bacteria that contribute to the cheese’s unique taste.
It’s worth noting that other factors also influence the flavor of blue cheese, such as the type of milk used (cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s), what the animals were eating before they were milked, and the specific cheesemaking techniques used by each cheesemaker.
Pairing Blue Cheese With Wine And Food
Blue cheese is a bold and flavorful cheese that pairs well with a variety of wines and foods. The strong taste of blue cheese makes it a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and even burgers. It can also be served as a standalone appetizer, paired with crackers or bread.
When it comes to wine pairing, blue cheese pairs well with full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. The tannins in these wines help to cut through the richness of the cheese and balance out its strong flavor. For those who prefer white wine, a Chardonnay or a sweet Riesling can also complement the bold taste of blue cheese.
In addition to wine, blue cheese can also be paired with other foods such as fruits and nuts. The sweetness of fruits such as grapes or pears can balance out the sharpness of the cheese, while nuts such as walnuts or pecans can add an extra crunch to each bite.