Even in this democratic age, there is a hierarchy of nobility among cheeses. Roquefort, an ancient style that has been enjoyed since before the Dark Ages, is one of the most regal.
This famous blue cheese is made from raw sheep’s milk. It is matured in limestone caves, a subterranean wonderland with naturally cool, moist air.
Formed centuries ago after the collapse of Mont Cambalou, the caves have been built up into a multi-level vaulted structure, housing offices and storage facilities, as well as the manufacturing and ripening areas.
The starter comes from loaves of rye bread, which are baked extra-long and left to rot. As the rye decays, mold spores form. The mold, penicillium roqueforti, is then worked into the curd.
Roquefort has virtually no rind, and should crumble into moist, almost creamy, chunks. The paste is bone white (yellowing is a sign of over ripeness), and drenched with blue-green veins, fissures and pockmarks.
The cheese should taste slightly salty, but not overpowering. The overall flavor is complex and intense. A bit spicy on the tongue, Roquefort is tangy, but with just enough sweetness to make you notice.
PAIRINGS: A big, robust Roquefort can do anything: be the centerpiece of a cheese board, or stand alone as a single perfect dessert. It matches well with apples and most other fruits, as well as vegetables. On the other hand, it makes an intense sauce (don’t overpour) for grilled meats. Pair it with the most complex red wine you can afford, or a dessert wine like Sauternes.
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