Saturday, May 9, 2009

No Roquefort Is Leaving Me Blue

George W.’s parting shot as President was to impose a 300% tariff on Roquefort cheese. This action was in retaliation to the European Union banning the import of hormone-fed beef. The E.U. has much stricter food regulations than the U.S. and is a stickler when it comes to additives, preservatives or genetic modification. Personally, I think their erring on the side of caution is a good thing and would like to see more of it here.

The end result of this tariff—which also affects the price of Irish oatmeal, French truffles and Italian sparkling water—means bye-bye Roquefort! Suppliers that still have it in stock are demanding as much as $70 a pound for the stinky stuff.

For me, Roquefort once was the only game in town. The thought of substituting blue cheese was about as appealing as buying store-brand ketchup instead of Heinz or Double Cola instead of Coke. How things have changed. I can’t even remember the last time I ate Roquefort cheese. Quite honestly, for me the threat of high-priced Pellegrino is of much greater concern. There are just too many excellent domestic blue cheeses to choose from today.

In fact, Roquefort is nothing more than a kind of blue cheese. Like many other varieties—Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, etc.—Roquefort is named after where it was made. What all blue cheese has is common is Penicillium culture which produce the characteristic blue veins or spots, crumbly texture and distinctive salty flavor. Blue cheese can be made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk or goat’s milk.

There are many fine American cheesemakers in Oregon, California, Iowa and— of course— Wisconsin now producing artisan (handmade) cheeses. Wisconsin produces the most blue-veined cheese and it seems to grow in popularity every year. You can find fine blues at Fromagination, Whole Foods, Willy Street Coop, farmers’ markets and other shops that feature artisan cheese.

It’s an odd year (literally) so there will be no Cheese Days in Monroe (next in 2010), but the 21st Annual Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival goes on as usual in Little Chute, June 5 - 7.

Here if my Best of Madison list of Wisconsin Blue Cheese:

Montforte Gorgonzola, Wisconsin Farmers Union. This organization of dairy farmers decided to open its own cheese factory in Montfort and their gorgonzola won top honors at the 2006 American Cheese Society completion.

Buttermilk Blue, Roth Käse. Roth Käse makes many excellent European-style cheeses including two blue types. The Buttermilk Blue is made from raw milk and perfect for blue cheese dressing or dip. They also make Bleu Affinée which is aged longer (6 months instead of 2) and much denser in texture.
Ba Ba Blue, Carr Valley Cheese. Located in LaValle, Carr Valley is one of my favorite cheesemakers. They continually come up with some of the most imaginative and successful new cheeses around. Ba Ba Blue—obviously made from sheep’s milk—is a Roquefort-style, award-winning blue cheese. Carr Valley also makes Billy Blue—obviously made from goats milk—porcelain white in color, it’s milder and crumblier than Ba Ba Blue.

Hook’s Blue, Hook's Cheese. Tony and Juile Hook have built their reputation on the very best cheddar and blue cheese to be found anywhere. Varieties of blue include Hook’s Blue (original), Blue Paradise, Tilston Point and Gorgonzola. The original is a Danish-style blue aged for over a year and just hard to beat, either in cooking or standing alone.

Dunbarton Blue, Roelli Cheese. Several kinds of blue cheese are available from the factory and store in Shullsburg but their newest and best is an innovative Stilton-style blue cheddar. With fruit it’s the ideal dessert cheese.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
¾ cup buttermilk or Greek-style plain yogurt
2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives
½ teaspoon finely minced garlic (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Dash of cayenne
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces blue cheese, coarsely crumbled by hand
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except the blue cheese with a whisk. When smooth, stir in the blue cheese. Store covered in the refrigerator.

The dressing's flavor will greatly improve if made several hours ahead of time or the night before. (It will keep for several days, cover, in the refrigerator.)

Makes about 2 cups.

1 comment:

Chocoholic said...

No Tilston mentioned? It's out of stock right now, but if you haven't had it, I highly recommend it.