Cheese Tasting, Part 1: Blue Cheese

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Ah, cheese. Where to begin. It has to be one of my favorite things in the world.

I love creamy cheese and stinky cheese and cheese that comes wrapped in leaves. I love cheese in things and on things and on its own. I even once made fudge with cheese. (I admit, that was more of a science experiment than a culinary adventure.) And don’t even get me going on fondue.

So, much like our recent chocolate tasting, here’s the first in a series of cheese tastings.

Cheese in and around Boston

There are a couple of really good places to get cheese in Boston. My favorite, hands down, is Formaggio Kitchen, a little cheese shop and gourmet market on Huron Ave. outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge.

Formaggio Kitchen ages a lot of its own cheeses. The folks there are really knowledgeable about what they sell. And they always let you taste before you buy—a big bonus, especially where new cheese is concerned.

This week’s cheeses, however, come from Whole Foods, since we were recently there. I’ve found that their cheese selection is hit or miss, depending on which store you hit and how much cheese they turn over each week. These all looked pretty good.

Blue Cheese Tasting

Valdeon Spanish Blue

($18.99/lb or $3.61 for my little piece)

Valdeon is a fairly strong blue cheese. It’s got the characteristic dry crumble of a good firm blue. The paste is off-white and shot through with loads of blue-ish green veins. It’s salty and tangy.

Made in the Valdeon valley of Spain’s Castilla-Leon region, this cheese is usually a mix of cow and goat milk. It’s wrapped in sycamore leaves before aging (one sure way to tell it apart from its slightly stronger blue cousin, Cabrales, which is always foil-wrapped). My piece had a large piece of leaf stuck to the rind.

Valdeon is also supposed to melt really well, making it a good candidate for any kind of hot sauce or topping.

My verdict? I liked it a lot and would buy it again. One of my new favorites for a firmer blue cheese.

Shropshire Blue

($19.99/lb. or $3.20 for my little piece)

Made in England, this 45% butterfat cheese is a mix of pasteurized cow’s milk and vegetable rennet.

It gets its distinctive orange color from annatto, a natural food coloring. Think of it as a kind of marriage of a Stilton and a Cheshire. (I also think of it as Halloween Cheese.)

My verdict? I tend to like my blue cheese to have a lot of bite. When compared to the Valdeon, I think it was just a touch too mild for me. Maybe it was just this piece, as I’ve read that it’s supposed to have a really sharp flavor. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a new favorite.

St. Agur French Blue

($21.99/lb or $3.74 for my little piece)

A 60% butterfat, double-creme blue from France, the St. Agur was my favorite of the bunch�at least on the evening I tried them.

Made from pasteurized cow’s milk in Auvergne, France, this cheese is aged for about 2 months in an 2-kilogram, octagonal wheel. When ripe, it spreads like softened butter or gooey brie.

The spicy, strong flavor provides an excellent contrast to the rich, creamy texture. The white paste is dappled with blue veining.

My verdict? By far, this was my favorite of the evening. If I hadn’t stopped myself, I do believe I might have eaten the whole piece. (Hey, it was pretty small).

And what about you?

Like blue cheese? Hate it? Have a type you’d recommend for next time?

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Dynamite. I'm definitely jotting these down for next time and it's totally no surprise to me that your fave was French as I was talking about how amazing they are at cheese-making just today (http://foodiemam.blogspot.com/2008/09/turophiliac.html).
  2. They all look great! The Shropshire Blue is such an amazing color. You should join in La Fte du Fromage, a monthly cheese tasting event that I host. http://chezlouloufrance.blogspot.com/2008/09/la-fte-du-fromage-round-up.html I've been working my way through tasting French cheeses for the last year and a half and finally created a blogging event to encourage others to taste cheese. Hope to see you there!
  3. Oh cheese, how I love thee! But one thing is missing here! Where is the Veleveeta!!!? How could you forget the finest (cough cough) of all cheeses? Seriously though, nice idea to do these tastings :)
  4. Greetings! Robert-Gilles from Shizuoka, Japan! A cheese over too (after all, I'm French. LOL), I also share a fondness for "stinking" cheese! All of them! Now, have you ever tried Epoisses or Munster? They are also great for cooking, especially Munster baked with pear slices! Cheers and coming again soon! Robert-Gilles
  5. Greetings, sir! Thanks for stopping by! I'm a decided fan of your blog! I've had both of those, and you're right...YUM! (And yes, oh-so-stinky!) Baking pear slices with Munster sounds divine! Do you have a specific recipe? Sigh. So much cheese, so little time...I'll probably do another cheese tasting next week sometime. +Jessie
  6. Dear Jessie! Greetings! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! Baking pears with munster is a regional dish in Alsatian (I'm Burgundian, incdentally) homes. Choose your pears just ripe enough, cut them in thin slices and add lemon juice to them to preserve their colour. Place them in an oven shallow china (pottey) dish (white if possible for better presentation). Cut or spoon off Munster cheese and put over pears liberally. The cheese will spread naturally upon being cooked. Sprinkle pepper and nutmeg (no salt, there is enough inside the cheese!) over cheese (you cold add rosemary leaves, too). Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius. Cook until the surface has reached a light brown color (up to you actually as many people like it cooked in many different stages). Serve at once. Eat it as it is, or on thin toasted bread. Try a sweet white wine or a port with it! Simple and enjoy! Cheers and all that, Robert-Gilles
  7. Oh, wow. That sounds fantastic! Thanks so much for taking the time to post up instructions. I love sweet/salty combinations like this. I'll definitely give it a try. Yum! +Jessie

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