oh, no. why so blue?

At the store, we get more questions about blue cheese than any other cheese type. The #1 question: How can you tell when a blue cheese is past its prime? It occurred to me from all the questions that this is a roadblock for many, and I can’t have you missing out on the amazing world of blue cheese because of this little worry. So let me break it down for you the best I can. Mold is a natural part of all cheese and nothing to get too worked up over. Usually, just cut it off and you are ready to enjoy the rest of the cheese.  When it comes to blue cheeses, how do you know when it is going or has gone bad? Since blue cheeses already consist of “good” mold and the colors are different depending on the cheese, how can we tell when it is time to say goodbye to these beautiful blues?

First, here is a little background on blues.
Keep in mind, not all mold is bad when you are discussing cheese.  The veins in blue cheeses are different colors naturally because of the two different types of blue-mold spores that are used in the production of blue cheese, Penicilium Roqueforti and Penicilium Glaucum.  As an example, the Glaucum is used in Fourme d’Ambert, an absolutely amazing blue cheese, and often has more blue-gray or even green color veining than Roqueforti, which is often (but not always) bright blue, like a Shropshire Blue. Obviously you will have variations of all of these depending on creamery, age, etc.  So here are a couple of tests to verify if your blue cheese has past its prime.

The first test is visual. Look at the cheese. Has the white and creamy colored base of the cheese turned yellow, pink, orange or even a reddish brown color? Is there fuzz and mold on the surface where there wasn’t when you first brought it home?  This growth could be new and unhealthy bacteria forming on the cheese. Is there slime? A slimy texture can develop when blue cheese begins to go bad. Is there any excess moisture, or is the texture no longer dry and crumbly. Have the veins turned from blue to green, gray or even a chalky gray-white? If you answered yes to any of these, you probably did not eat your blue cheese fast enough and it is time to say goodbye.

The second test is smell.  You are probably laughing at this one as blues smell strong and that can throw people. The smell of a blue can become very potent over a period of time and that is normal. When it begins to smell like ammonia, however, then it is time to say goodbye.

The third test is taste. Take a small bite of the cheese. If it tastes like a blue, only stronger, it will still be very enjoyable. If the taste seems “off” in anyway, it’s time to say goodbye.

Now the most important thing to keep in mind is only buy what you will consume in the next few days to ensure the freshest product.  And the next time you open the refrigerator door to get dinner ready and you see your blue cheese sitting there, don’t wait!  Crumble it on top of a salad or melt it on your grilled steak.  Whip it into your mashed potatoes or mix in with some freshly cooked green beans. Do you have ground beef?  Make hamburger patties and stuff them with diced mushrooms and blue cheese.  There is no need to let amazing blue cheese reside in the refrigerator when it is so versatile and so delicious. So, do stop by and try one of our 20+ blue cheeses we have in stock.  You never know, you might just be an ardent blue cheese fan after all!

A big thank you to Kate Ardig from Culture Cheese Magazine for answering my many questions; she is truly the best reference this cheese”head” can have.

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 Vine & Table #301