Blue cheese varies in consistency from semi-soft to very soft, in color from pale yellow to white, and in flavor from mild to sharp. It can be made from sheep's milk, cow's milk, or goat's milk. Constant, however, are the blue veins that weave through the cheese and its unmistakable pungency.

It begins its life much like any soft white cheese, but instead of being made from curd pressed firmly into a mold, it is only gently shaped. The resultant cheese is riddled with nooks, crannies and cracks, which often gives it a crumbly texture. These cracks are infected with Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucom, each of which produces blue or greenish-blue spores. Using needles or hollow rods, the cheese is aerated to encourage the fungus to sporulate.

While some blue cheeses are pressed gently into their molds, enough to squeeze out whey but not enough to compress the cheese, some blue cheeses aren't pressed at all. Instead, they sit in their molds for weeks as the whey drips out of them. Eventually, the molds can be removed without the cheeses falling apart, at which point they can join their pressed brethren in being salted, aerated, and infected.

This category of cheese is sometimes misrepresented as "bleu cheese," particularly by people who make cheap salad dressing in the USA.

For English-speakers, the correct term is blue cheese, b-l-u-e cheese. Using the word "bleu" to describe a cheese is appropriate for people who are speaking French or for anyone referring directly to an actual French blue cheese in which that is part of its name. In all other cases, 'bleu' is Francification encouraged by people whose cheese is neither French nor worth putting in one's mouth. Decent non-French blue cheeses, like Maytag, Stilton, Saga Blue, Gorgonzola, Shropshire Blue, Picon or Blue Castello require no such pretension. Actual cheese names should be left in their language of origin, and those names are chosen by the cheesemaker; cheese categories don't belong to any one particular country, culture, or language and therefore should be in the speaker's language. Therefore, the type of cheese is "blue cheese" or "fromage bleu", and specific cheeses are "Bleu de Bresse" (from France) or "Blue Cheshire" (from England); "bleu cheese" is nonsense.

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