In the world of cheese, blue cheese is among the most flavorful, with English blue cheeses amongst the most popular varieties. The pungency of blue cheese adds flavor to salad dressings, zests up savory dishes and pairs well with fruits.
Blue Cheese History
The origins of blue cheese date back to the days before modern refrigeration, when food was stored in cool caves to deter spoilage. Freshly made cheese was hung in the caves to preserve it, but the caves were not cold enough to prevent bacteria growth. Mold formed on the cheese and invaded its surface, creating rivulets of mold throughout the curds. Some brave and inquisitive people decided to taste it before discarding it as spoiled food and discovered the wonderful taste the mold had imparted to the cheese.
Modern Blue Cheese Production
Penicillum roqueforti is added to cow's milk at the onset of the process, injected into the cheese as it ages or applied in a thin mist to the surface of the cheese. Needles create tiny avenues and vessels of blue mold in the curds to increase air flow and encourage mold growth throughout the cheese.
Popular English Blue Cheeses
Many countries around the world produce notable varieties of blue cheese, with several English varieties topping the list.
Stilton Blue Cheese
The most popular English blue cheese is Stilton. It has the honorable distinction of protected designation of origin (PDO) status granted by the European Commission, a trademark honor earned by only 15 other British products, none of which is cheese.
Considered a member of the Blue Stilton family, Buxton Blue is easily recognizable by the light veins of chocolate-brown mold that run through it. It has a cylindrical shape, unlike other cheeses commonly shaped like wheels.
Shropshire Blue Cheese
A relative newcomer to the British blue cheese family, Shropshire originated in Scotland in the 1970s. When that operation closed in 1980, Shropshire production commenced in England. This type is recognizable by its orange-brown rind and is a bit creamier and sharper than Stilton.
Serving Blue Cheese
Blue cheese is most popular as a salad dressing ingredient, but paired with fruit, it also makes a rich and flavorful dessert.
Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
This recipe is easy to double for a crowd and is good on crackers and hearty bread rounds as an appetizer.
- 1 pint mayonnaise
- 3/8 pound cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 pound blue cheese, imported or a high quality American variety like Maytag, handful reserved
- Blend all of the ingredients except the reserved cheese in a food processor or large, powerful mixer to the desired consistency.
- Crumble reserved cheese and stir in by hand to keep it chunky.
Pear Tart with Blue Cheese Streusel
- 1 cup flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
- In a food processor, blend butter and ice water.
- Add flour all at once and process/mix until a ball forms.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
- 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- Combine flour, brown sugar and almonds in a medium bowl.
- Using a pastry blender, cut in blue cheese until mixture resembles a coarse meal and set aside.
- 1 1/2 pounds pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1/2 inch lengthwise slices
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Combine the pears, lemon juice, blue cheese, butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.
- Toss to combine and set aside.
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
Assembly & Baking Directions
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
- Roll pastry dough into a 13 inch circle, transfer it to a baking sheet and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle the prepared dough with 2/3 of the streusel mixture, leaving a two inch border around the edge.
- Top with the pear filling, followed by the remaining streusel.
- Fold the two inch border over the top of the streusel and sprinkle the folded crust with the remaining one teaspoon of brown sugar.
- Bake until pears are tender and the crust is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
Embracing the Blues
Explore the various varieties of blue cheese at a local cheese shop that offers free tastes. Find one that appeals to your palate and incorporate it into sweet and savory dishes to give meals a gourmet touch.