Are you a fan of blue cheese?
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to age this deliciously pungent cheese?
Blue cheese is made using a unique type of mold called Penicillium, which gives it its signature taste, smell, and appearance.
But how long does it take for this mold to work its magic?
In this article, we’ll explore the aging process of blue cheese and answer some common questions about its shelf life.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about the delicious world of blue cheese.
How Long Is Blue Cheese Aged?
Blue cheese is typically aged for 2-3 months before it’s ready to be enjoyed. During the cheesemaking process, Penicillium is added to the curds after they have been drained and rolled into wheels. This mold is responsible for the distinct taste and smell of blue cheese, as well as its signature blue and green veins and spots.
The aging process of blue cheese is crucial to its flavor development. As the cheese ages, it becomes sharper and more pungent. The mold continues to grow and spread throughout the cheese, creating a complex flavor profile that is beloved by many.
However, not all blue cheeses are aged for the same amount of time. Some varieties may be aged for longer periods, resulting in a stronger flavor and aroma. Others may be aged for shorter periods, resulting in a milder taste.
Ultimately, the length of time that blue cheese is aged depends on the specific variety and the preferences of the cheesemaker. Some blue cheeses may be aged for several months or even years, while others may only be aged for a few weeks.
The Aging Process Of Blue Cheese
The aging process of blue cheese is a multi-stage process that is crucial to its flavor development. After the cheese has been formed into wheels, it is left to age for at least 60 days before consumption. The initial aging stage requires a space with a temperature of 52-53F and 80% moisture, with fresh air exchange at least once or twice a day. During this time, the cheese is turned daily for 21 days, and around day 8, the first hints of blue mold can be seen developing. The cheese needs to be aerated by poking it with a stainless steel skewer, allowing the mold to grow in the presence of air.
After about three weeks, the cheese should show signs and smell of good blue development, indicating that it is time to move to the final aging stage. For this stage, the cheese will need to be placed in a cave at 42-43F and 90% humidity for another 2-5 months. This period is when the final blue flavor for this cheese develops. The longer it ages, the stronger the flavor becomes.
During the ripening process, the body of the cheese is transformed from a semi-acid condition to a much sweeter flavor as enzymes work on the protein and fat components. After the mucosa that formed during the initial aging has been wiped down, the cheese is wrapped in a parchment-backed foil wrap that slows down the blue’s development and allows the blue’s enzymes to work on maturing the cheese.
The final cheese rind may be moist with a rosy tinge or yellowish-grey with a drier feel. The flesh is smooth, white, and compact with streaks and patches of teal-colored veins and a powerful, slightly spicy flavor. It is important to note that not all blue cheeses are aged for the same amount of time; some may be aged for several months or even years, while others may only be aged for a few weeks depending on their specific variety and cheesemaker’s preferences.
Factors That Affect Blue Cheese Aging
Several factors can affect the aging process of blue cheese. One of the most important is the type of milk used. Cheeses made from raw milk tend to age more quickly and develop a stronger flavor than those made from pasteurized milk.
The temperature and humidity levels during the aging process also play a crucial role in the development of blue cheese. The ideal temperature for aging blue cheese is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while the humidity should be kept at around 90%. These conditions allow the mold to grow and spread throughout the cheese, creating its characteristic flavor and texture.
The type of mold used also affects the aging process. Some blue cheeses are made with specific strains of Penicillium that are known to age more quickly and develop a stronger flavor. Other strains may be used for milder cheeses.
Finally, the size and shape of the cheese can also affect its aging process. Larger wheels of cheese tend to age more slowly than smaller ones, while cheeses with a higher surface area-to-volume ratio will age more quickly.
How To Store Blue Cheese For Maximum Shelf Life
To ensure that your blue cheese stays fresh and flavorful for as long as possible, it’s important to store it properly. Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of your blue cheese:
1. Keep it refrigerated: Blue cheese should always be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in the cheese drawer or in a sealed container. This will help to prevent moisture and bacteria from getting into the cheese, which can cause it to spoil faster.
2. Wrap it tightly: Blue cheese should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or cheese paper to keep air out and prevent the cheese from drying out. Wax paper can also be used, but it’s not as effective at keeping out moisture.
3. Let it breathe: While blue cheese should be tightly wrapped, it’s important to allow some air to circulate around the cheese. This will help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which can cause the cheese to spoil faster. If using plastic wrap or aluminum foil, poke a few small holes in the wrap to allow air to circulate.
4. Use it within 3-4 weeks: Blue cheese will typically last for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator if stored properly. However, once the cheese is opened, it should be used within 7-10 days for best results.
5. Freeze it for longer storage: If you have a large amount of blue cheese that you won’t be able to use within a few weeks, consider freezing it. Blue cheese can be frozen for up to 6 months, although its texture and appearance may be slightly altered when thawed. To freeze blue cheese, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that your blue cheese stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.
Signs That Blue Cheese Has Gone Bad
While blue cheese can last for a few weeks in the fridge if stored properly, it can still go bad if not consumed within a reasonable timeframe. Here are some signs that your blue cheese has gone bad:
1. Smell: The best way to tell if your blue cheese has gone bad is to give it a sniff. Fresh blue cheese has a strong scent, but as it starts to spoil, the smell changes. If your blue cheese has an ammonia-like smell, it is probably spoiled.
2. Color: Pay attention to the color of the creamy part of the cheese. Fresh blue cheese is typically white, beige, or yellow, with blue or green mold spots. If you notice that the creamy part of the cheese has turned pink, brown, or green, your blue cheese has likely spoiled.
3. Texture: Study the cheese to see if its surface appears slimy or fuzzy. If you notice changes in texture, discard the cheese.
4. Taste: While fresh blue cheese has a strong, sharp taste, old cheese becomes especially biting when it starts to spoil. If you taste a bit of the blue cheese and it’s too strong to enjoy, you should throw it away.
It’s important to note that eating a small bit of spoiled blue cheese isn’t going to make you sick in most cases. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard any blue cheese that you suspect may have gone bad.
Blue Cheese Varieties And Their Ageing Periods
There are many different varieties of blue cheese, each with its own unique flavor and aging period. Here are a few examples:
1. Roquefort: This French cheese is aged for a minimum of 90 days and up to 9 months. It has a distinct sharp and tangy flavor, with a creamy texture and strong blue veins.
2. Gorgonzola: This Italian cheese is aged for 3-4 months, resulting in a milder taste than Roquefort. It has a creamy texture and a nutty, earthy flavor.
3. Stilton: This English cheese is aged for a minimum of 9 weeks and up to 12 weeks. It has a crumbly texture and a strong, pungent flavor with blue veins that are more spread out than other blue cheeses.
4. Danish Blue: This cheese is aged for 8-12 weeks, resulting in a milder taste than other blue cheeses. It has a creamy texture and a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.
5. Bleu d’Auvergne: This French cheese is aged for 4-5 weeks, resulting in a milder taste than Roquefort. It has a creamy texture and a slightly salty, tangy flavor.
These are just a few examples of the many different varieties of blue cheese and their aging periods. The length of time that each cheese is aged can greatly impact its flavor and texture, making it important to try different varieties to find your favorite.