The history of blue cheese goes back to the 7th century, to a cave outside the village of Roquefort in France. Legend has it that a distracted shepherd forgot his lunch of bread and cheese in the cave. When he returned a few months later, the cheese had bloomed with penicillium roqueforti, a mould that was growing in the cave. Today this natural mould is refined and used for almost all blue cheeses simply by adding the mould culture to the milk.
As the name suggests, hard cheese is firm & often savoury. Production involves separating and draining most of the whey before pressing the curd, which is then either brined to create a hard rind, or waxed. Finally, the cheese is aged between 2 and 36 months, and in some cases even longer. Ageing determines the intensity of the flavour. A well-aged cheese will be more flavourful, less creamy and grainier in texture.
A perfect balance of moisture and aridity, these cheeses provide a firm, slightly springy texture with a delicate blend of savoury and tangy flavours. Usually dense in consistency, the cheese is often made by compressing curds into a solid, draining them of any remaining whey in the process.
Is there anything more indulgent than an unctuous soft cheese? Soft mould ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert are traditionally regarded as the domain of the French, yet there is so much more to explore from this cheese group, with British favourites such as Tunworth or Baron Bigod.
Washed-rind cheeses are something special and there’s a wonderful variety to choose from. Whether washed in brine, Marc de Bourgogne or a deliciously dry cider, these delicious fromages range from hard to soft and usually have a pungent smell and strong flavour.