Roquefort is, with english Stilton
and italian Gorgonzola
, one of the best known bleu cheese
s. Roquefort is made in southern France
, since probably as much as thousands of years. Roquefort has a powerful
, salty taste
, and a moist
, friable body that should be cut with a warm blade. It melts in the mouth, with a rich and spicy aftertaste
. Roquefort's veining is more green, or greenish-blue, than blue; it is caused by penicillium roqueforti
Roquefort should always be eaten at the end of the meal, unless it is put into a salad, pizza or hamburger. It should be accompanied by wine such as a Sauternes or Muscat, or simply by a port.
In 1411, king Charles VI gives the people of Roquefort the monopoly of the cave maturing of this cheese. It is in 1925 that Roquefort cheese gets its AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée), which specifications are:
- The sheep milk should not be used after 20 days from lambing.
- Rennet adding should take place no more than 48 hours after the last milking.
- Penicillium roqueforti cultures should come from traditional sources such as natural caves found around the region of Roquefort.
- Salting should be done with dry salt.
- Cheese makers should keep a record of the quantity of milk delivered by the producers, along with the weight and number of cheeses prepared every day.
- Once the cheese is in the cave, all the following operations (including wrapping) should take place in Roquefort.
In 1961, it was ruled that the white cheese can be made in many regions (Provence, Corse, Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon) but that maturing should take place only in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, thus establishing today's monopoly.
Nowadays, 3.3 million Roquefort cheeses are made in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon annually. After comté cheese, it is the most eaten cheese in France. All of these spent at least 3 months in one of the natural caves of Roquefort. Maturing normally takes 3 to 4 months, but is often extended up to 9 months. The older the Roquefort, the bluer is the veining. Very old Roquefort is almost grey, with deep holes.
Roquefort is really a treat, and one must in fact learn to like it, just like about any other bleu cheese. Sadly, Roquefort is rather high priced in North America. I buy it at about 54 $CAN/kg, which is in real dollars about 16.50 $/lb.
Primary source: Encyclopédie des fromages: Guide illustré de plus de 350 fromages de toutes les régions de France, Librairie Grund.