What Is Roquefort Cheese Made from?
Roquefort is one of the most popular blue cheeses on earth. But what is Roquefort cheese made from actually? What ingredient gives the unique blue veins to this cheese? And what makes these blue veins essential for the cheese? Whether you are a blue cheese lover or simply someone who wishes to try this cheese, you will certainly love all the facts about this cheese.
What Is Roquefort Cheese?
French people call this cheese the king of all cheeses due to its many special characteristics. Roquefort cheese is one of the very few cheeses that have blue mold it. Besides Roquefort cheese, there are four other cheese types that also have blue veins in them, including Bleu d’Auvergne (another French cheese), the Spanish Cabrales, the British Stilton, the Irish Cashel, the Danish Danablu, the American Maytag, and the Italian Gorgonzola.
All of those blue cheese variants have blue veins in them and despite the variety of names, they may actually share many similar characteristics. In fact, if it were not for the Protection Designation of Origin regulation, which affirms the genuineness of specific types of cheese based on where they originate from, one blue cheese variant with another might be quite identical, with the difference in taste, look, and texture that is often slight and ignorable. Substituting one particular variant of blue cheese with another is quite acceptable if you cannot get the needed variant for your meal.
Nevertheless, despite the similarities of all blue or bleu cheese variants, Roquefort cheese is considered unique. When you ask, what is Roquefort cheese made from, its uniqueness actually lies on the answer of such question. Unlike the other blue cheese variants that are listed above, which are all made from cow’s milk, Roquefort cheese is made from sheep’s milk. The closest cousin for this cheese is perhaps the Spanish Cabrales, which is also made from sheep’s milk; however, unlike Roquefort cheese that uses sheep’s milk only, Spanish Cabrales uses a combination of sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and cow’s milk.
To sum up, what is called Roquefort cheese is a kind of semisoft cheese made from sheep’s milk that has blue veins in it. It has some distinct characteristics including ivory-colored interior mottled with blue mold, sharp salty taste, crumbly texture in the inside, and pungent aroma.
Where Does Roquefort Cheese Come from?
Roquefort cheese is produced in southern France near the town of Roquefort. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system requires that the production process follow a strict procedure that has been preserved since at least the first century. Because this means that the entire production process must occur near this town, genuine Roquefort cheese can be acquired only from this region.
The naming of this cheese is not associated precisely to the town, but to the nearby limestone caves of Mont Combalou, where the cheese undergoes the ripening process. Only the cheese that is aged in these limestone caves can bear the Roquefort name according to the Appellation. Considered one of the finest types of cheese in the world, Roquefort cheese is the first cheese to receive the Appellation.
The Appellation also requires that the cheese be made entirely from the milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep, which are raised locally. Although it is possible to mix the sheep’s milk with a little concentration of cow’s milk, high-quality and genuine Roquefort cheese should consist only of Lacaune sheep’s milk. This can be a good answer if you are still asking, what is Roquefort cheese made from?
How Is Roquefort Cheese Made?
The production technique of Roquefort cheese is considered one of the oldest, dating back to the first century CE. From this technique, the finest French blue cheese is produced. Here is how to describe the production technique of Roquefort cheese.
- Milk is collected from farms that extract it from the Lacaune breed of sheep. The collected milk, which is kept raw with no pasteurization process done to it, is then transported to the creameries, where it is heated and stored in vats.
- The milk is then mixed with culture, penicillium roqueforti (which gives the cheese the blue veins), and rennet. The Appellation requires that the penicillium roqueforti that is added to the milk be extracted from the limestone caves in Mont Combalou and that the rennet be added within 2 days after milking.
- The formed curd is then separated from the yeast and wrung using a piece of cheesecloth to remove any trace of liquid that is still left in it.
- The curd is then shaped inside a cylindrical mold measuring about 10 centimeters high by 20 centimeters in diameter.
- The cheese is then brined in saturated brine made using dry salt to make sure that the mold doesn’t grow too excessively on the rind.
- Metal needles are used to pierce the cheese to allow the mold to breathe and to grow.
- The aging process will start afterward. After about 30 days, the blue mold should already cover the entire surface of the cheese. Scraping is needed to remove the mold and this is done after about three months of aging.
- After the scraping process, the aging process may continue. The cheese is ready for consumption after being aged for at least three months. If you prefer mold with a darker color and sharper flavor, wait for another 3 months of aging.
Most parts of this procedure must be done in the commune of Roquefort-Sur-Soulzon in order for the cheese to be certified as genuine Roquefort cheese.
Roquefort Cheese Nutrition
Roquefort cheese is a healthy cheese because it has anti-inflammatory properties and it inhibits the spread of chlamydia, a pathogenic bacterium that causes a sexually transmitted disease with the same name. If you have a problem with gluten, Roquefort cheese is also a perfect type of blue cheese to eat because it is gluten-free. Roquefort cheese might not be suitable for vegetarians because the rennet that is used during its production is animal-based.
So, what is Roquefort cheese made from? The primary ingredient of this cheese is the milk of the Lacaune sheep; however, the mold that is added to it is also considered another essential component that it must have to ensure its genuineness and unique look, taste, and texture.