Blue cheese is a general classification of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat or water buffalo milk cheeses that have had cultures of the Roqueforti fungus added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue, blue-grey or blue-green mould, and carries a distinct smell, either from that or various specially cultivated bacteria. Some blue cheeses are injected with spores before the curds form and others have spores mixed in with the curds after they form. Blue cheeses are typically aged in a temperature-controlled environment such as a cave.
In the European Union, many blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Danablu, Gorgonzola and Blue Stilton carry a protected designation of origin, meaning they can bear the name only if they have been made in a particular region in a certain country. Similarly, individual countries have protections of their own such as France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and Italy’s Denominazione di Origine Protetta. Blue cheeses with no protected origin name are designated simply “blue cheese”.
Blue cheese is believed to have been discovered by accident, when cheeses were stored in naturally temperature and moisture controlled caves, which happened to be favourable environments for many varieties of harmless mould. Roquefort is mentioned in texts as far back as 79 AD. Gorgonzola is one of the oldest known blue cheeses, having been created around 879 AD, though it is said that it did not actually contain blue veins until around the 11th century. Stilton is a relatively new addition becoming popular sometime in the early 1700s.
Though I focus on Canadian blues, I am more than happy to source some of the more renowned international blues for the tastings I do, such as the Spanish Cabrales which is a favourite blue of mine made in the artisan tradition by rural dairy farmers in the north of Spain. This cheese is made from pure, unpasteurised cow, sheep and goat milk which lends the cheese a stronger, more robust flavor.
Abbaye de Saint-Benôit-du-Lac (Eastern Townships, QC)
The monastery was founded in 1912 by exiled French monks who had moved to Belgium before relocating to Canada. The 50 to 60 men who now reside in the monastery live by the motto “pray and work.” And since 1943, part of the work at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac has been making cheese. It is the only cheese factory managed by Benedictine monks in North America.This cheese is has an aroma reminiscent of mushrooms and a creamy, delicately salted flavour. Beneath its whitish-grey coating, Bleu Bénédictin is a crumbly cheese with a creamy centre. A semi-soft, pasteurized whole milk blue, deeply veined with the Roqueforti penicillium mold. Aged 90 days.
Fromagerie du Presbytère, Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick QC
Organic, semi-soft, raw-milk farm cheese with blue-veined interior. A natural rind with ochre-coloured spots and an interior with lovely blue veins, sometimes with a ting of green due to the presence of Penicillium Roqueforti. This cheese has a wonderfully balanced salty flavour for a blue cheese. In part this is due to the herd of Holstein and Jersey cows which are fed dry hay daily. The pastures provide the herd with clover, timothy grass, bluegrass and other organic grains. Veterinary care must also respect the standards for organic certification. For this reason, the cows are never given antibiotics or hormones. Organic thermalized cow milk, natural rind, semi-firm, blue-veined paste. Aged 60 days.
Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac (Cantons-de-l’Est, Eastern Townships, QC)
This semi-soft blue-veined cheese is made from pasteurized milk and aged for 6 months in the Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac’s ripening rooms. Introduced in 2013, this cheese is made from specially selected blue cheeses. The smoking process gives the cheese a slightly woody taste that goes well with the flavour of the Roqueforti fungus.This cheese is made by Benedictine monks from the Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, who live off their manual labour. Inaugurated in 1943, the Abbaye’s cheese maker then produced only the blue cheese Ermite. Today, it makes a dozen varieties of cheese, including a few blue-veined ones. This semi-soft blue-veined cheese is made from pasteurized milk and aged for 6 months.
Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac (Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, QC ) & Ontario’s Provincial Fine Foods.
Unique to Canada, Blue Haze was inspired by Smokey Blue, a low-key blue cold-smoked over hazelnut shells at the Rogue Creamery in Oregon. Blue Haze’s smokiness is also mellow toward the interior of the paste but the golden brown rind that develops when it’s smoked (over cherry and hickory chips) imparts the exterior “crust” with a burnt caramel quality. The sweetness of the smoke is a perfect counterpart to the salty, buttermilk quality of the blue. The smoking process occurs at Hansen Farms in Cayuga, Ont. Provincial’s Brian Semenuk explains that cold smoking is a process that uses smoke to add flavour without involving heat that would cook a product. The curds are smaller and pressed to craft a firmer cheese that will not allow too much smoke to penetrate to the core of the wheel. Blue Haze is smoked for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the volume of cheese in the smoker. Pasteurized cow milk. Aged for 70 days before and another 30 days after being smoked.
Fromagerie la Moutonnière (Ste-Hélène-de-Chester, QC)
Bleu de la Moutonnière is a farmstead cheese produced by Alastair MacKenzie & Lucille Giroux.This growing Canadian operation produces their award winning blue using the milk of local sheep. They focus on the well-being and happiness of the sheep that they take milk from, resulting in a fabulous testament to sheep’s-milk blue cheese! The cheese is aged for 2-3 months in an underground cave and kept at well maintained temperature and natural humidity, which help to ensure good quality. Each wheel is cut in half and wrapped by hand. Whole pasteurized ewe milk. Natural rind.
Glengarry Fine Cheese (Lancaster ON)
The Celtic Blue is a soft creamy blue cheese, with delicate blue veining and a limestone coloured natural rind which is developed by specific ripening cultures. The typical blue taste is mild and not aggressive and is softened by a nice buttery aroma. Glengarry Fine Cheese is situated on the farm of Margaret Peters-Morris’ family ancestral lands in the corner of South Glengarry Township on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Pasteurized cow milk. Natural rind. Aged 2 – 3 months.
Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour (Charlevoix, QC)
The milk of a single herd is used to produce this silky textured blue, which is then aged by pioneering Charlevoix region affineur Maurice Dufour. Ciel de Charlevoix has deep blue veins, compelling savoury aromas, restrained salt, and sweet, earthy, almost meaty flavours. Serve a generous wedge with pear, walnuts and dark honey for a simple and tasty dessert. This cheese was created in 2000 but was recently crowned champion in the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix Cheese Competition held in Montreal. Whole pasteurized cow’s milk. Ripened a minimum of 60 days.
Abbaye Saint-Benoît (Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, QC)
The monastery was founded in 1912 by exiled French monks who had moved to Belgium before relocating to Canada. The 50 to 60 men who now reside in the monastery live by the motto “pray and work.” And since 1943, part of the work at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac has been making cheese. It is the only cheese factory managed by Benedictine monks in North America. Ermite is a mild creamy blue, is aged for five weeks, then removed from the ripening room and the natural mould rind that has formed is washed away. Pasteurized cow, Blue veined. Aged 45-50 days.
Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde (The Laurentians, QC).
Created in 2007, this semi-firm, veined farm cheese is made from organic cow’s milk. Its flavour is more intense than Rassembleu, evoking plants, mushrooms, wet wood, freshly cut grass and a hint of the country. The natural crust is marbled with white and grey mold, giving it a most rustic appearance. Its cylindrical shape hides a soft veined surface with a slightly granular texture that melts in your mouth. Those familiar to the French St. Agur will find Fleuron a wonderful new world addition to creamy blues. Organic pasteurized cow milk. Natural rind, semi-firm, blue-veined paste. Aged 60 days.
La Bergerie Aux 4 Vents (Champ Doré, New Brunswick)
Originally named after the Blue Jays that were plentiful on the family farm.You won’t see a lot of veining through this cheese – it has a predominantly pale, fresh-looking paste. The edges of the cheese have a brown-orange hue with a buttery appearance at the ripest points. The aroma is of earth, with the richness of sour cream. Let a small piece of Geai Bleu dissolve in your mouth – the sharpness on the edges of the tongue will be countered by its buttery flavour and velvety mouth feel. Raw cow (Holstein), Semi-firm, unpressed, foil-wrapped blue. Aged 60 days.
This a true artisan farmstead blue cheese. It is an award winner at the Royal Ontario Winter Fair is named after the local Lanark Highlands. This tall, regal, rustic, semi-soft unpasteurized sheep’s milk blue cheese has a dense, antique ivory to golden paste with prominent vertical teal-blue colored veining throughout, and a mottled natural rind. Founded in 2000, Back Forty is a small farm nestled in the heart of the Lanark Highlands where cheesemaker Jeff Fenwick hand crafts artisanal cheeses of the highest quality out of raw ewe milk. Raw ewe milk. Natural rind. Aged 3-4 months.
Porto Bleu : Fromagerie Du Charme (Centre-Du-Québec)
The addition of Les Pionniers port wine from the Les Côtes du Gavet winery in Tingwick enhances the cheese’s flavour and gives it its plum colour. Le Porto Bleu is slightly salty with notes of port wine and hazelnut. The flavour varies in sharpness from low to medium. It is excellent with meat, in salads, on crackers or added to sauces. The name Le Porto Bleu simply tells what the cheese is made of. The label is a nod to Jacques Ducharme, the father of the cheese maker, Olivier Ducharme: the father is pictured milking a cow in the magnificent setting of Saint-Rémi-de-Tingwick. The area is known for this original blue cheese with its unique flavours that are sought after by lovers of fine cheeses. Blue-veined, semi-soft, thermalised cow milk. Aged three months.
Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde (Laurentides, QC).
A firm veined farm cheese made with organic cow’s milk. Its grey, naturally bloomy rind gives this cheese a unique appearance. Tasting of fresh mushroom and caramel, it is sure to become a favourite. Rassembleu is also ideal for people who want to develop a taste for veined cheeses who don’t want that aftertaste often associated with the stronger Stiltons and Roqueforts. Organic pasteurized cow milk. Natural rind, firm, blue-veined paste. Aged 60-80 days.
The Rébellion is called as such because this cheese is full-bodied and the people who love mild cheeses consider those who like it to be somewhat rebellious. Louis-Joseph Papineau has held several important positions in the course of his life. In addition to having been President of the National Assembly in Quebec, he was also Chef of the Patriots during the rebellion of 1837. Papineau participated in the writing of the “Ninety Resolutions” in order to request changes in the administration of the Lower-Canada government. This report also denounced the existing corruption. England’s refusal to approve changes aggravated the situation and thus the rebellion of the people in 1837-1838. Pasteurised cow milk. Blue veined. Aged 2-3 months.
This log of soft cheese made with pasteurized milk has a bloomy rind and is lightly veined with blue. It has a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and tastes of fresh cream with a slightly woody finish that marks the sharpness of a blue cheese. Its woody aromas of cream and fresh mushrooms make it a light, mild cheese with a barney overtone. Pasteurized cow. Blue-veined with Roqueforti penicillium. Bloomy. Aged 25-30 days.
Thornloe Cheese (Thornloe, ON)
Thornloe Casey Blue Cheese is a unique Canadian cheese. It is a creamy cheese, marbled with rich blue veins and a slightly sharp taste but not as strong as some traditional Blue Cheeses. This cheese is not pressed which allows it to be crumbly and flakey, making it ideal for salads, soups, sauces, pastas and pizza. It is an essential item on a gourmet cheese tray. Casey Blue Cheese is an Artisan cheese hand-made in small batches. A semi-soft, pasteurized whole milk blue, deeply veined with the Roqueforti penicillium mold. Aged 90 days.