If you are a cheese lover you may already be familiar with the pleasure of eating a creamy Gorgonzola or sharpStilton. But these two favourites are just two of the many European blue cheeses out there.
Whether you are looking to add new cheeses to your collection or something special for your next cheese plate, here's a quick guide to 10 European blue cheeses that will rock your palate.
Blue Cheese: How It's Made
First things first, how does blue cheese get its trademark blue veins? This gorgeous marbling is a result of a carefully selected strain of Penicillin mould that is added to the milk during cheese production.
During the ageing process the cheese is pierced with long needles to allow air to enter and form mould, which results in the blue veins. Blue cheese is typically produced in temperature-controlled environments, such as caves or cellars.
The 'stinky' smell of blue cheese is attributed to a family of moulds known as bacterium Brevibacteriumlinens, the bacteria most often identified with the odour of 'smelly feet'.
Legend has it that the first blue cheese was discovered by accident near Roquefort, France, when a shepherd was in a cave snacking on cheese made from sheep’s milk. The story goes that he abandoned his meal after spying a beautiful maiden outside. When he came back months later, the cheese was shot through with the now emblematic blue-cheese penicillin mould.
Modern science has since debunked this myth and attributes the marriage of cheese and mould to the penicillin present in some rye and rye flours. But whether you choose to believe the randy herder origin story or the less ribald rye version, the breadth of blue cheese flavours won’t disappoint.
Blue Cheese: 10 European Varieties Worth Trying
This cow's milk blue cheese hails from Finland where it is commonly enjoyed with rye crackers.
Bleu d' Auvergne
One of the most well-known blue cheeses in the world, the blue d'Auvergne derives its name from the Southern French town where it is produced. It is less pungent than other blue cheeses and its veins range from blue-green to blackish blue.
This modern Danish blue cheese is semi hard and uniformly veined thanks to a fun method of production: the curd is perforated with sticks or copper wires so that the mould is evenly distributed in the cheese.
A French cheese dating from the Roman times. Produced in the region of d'Auvergne, it is made from raw cow's milk and formed into narrow cylindrical shapes.
This famous Italian blue cheese is made from whole cow's milk injected with Penicillium glacum. It derives its name from a province near Milan where it has been produced since antiquity.
Picón Bejes Tresvisos
A cheese from the Liébana district in Spain's autonomous Cantabria Valley. Originally sold wrapped in maple leaves, this blue cheese is now sold covered in golden foil.
Queso de Cabrales
A blue cheese varietal produced in Asturias, Spain. Protected since 1981 and produced only in rural areas, it has almost no crust, a creamy texture and a very strong odour due to the addition of milk from sheep and goats to that of cow's.
This pungent blue cheese originated in the south of France. It is made with sheep's milk. Legend has it that a shepherd boy, fascinated by the sight of a pretty girl, abandoned his meal made of bread and sheep's curd in the cave. He returned after some time, the mould (Penicillium roqueforti) had turned into Roquefort...
An English cheese whose most famous version is the 'blue'. Its most classic accompaniments are celery, pear and Port wine, or 'barley wine', a British top-fermented beer from the Greek origins.
And if Stilton is the best known, other British blue cheeses deserve a mention. Including the Stichelton, creamy and dense, made of unpasteurised cow's milk; the Beenleight Blue, produced from unpasteurised sheep's milk, available only in fall and winter; and the Dorset Blue Vinny, made from cow's milk and vegetarian rennet from an old recipe 300 years.
It is the blue cheese that is produced in the heart of the Picos de Europa mountain range located along the northern coast of Spain.
Made from cow and/or goat's milk, it has a yellowish paste and a mild flavour. It is wrapped in giant sycamore or chestnut leaves, which facilitates the preservation and maintenance of humidity levels.
Besides savouring each type of blue cheese solo in all its flavour-packed glory, what else can you do with blue cheese? Well, for a tangy main where Gorgonzola oozes around plump, taught cherry tomatoes and pine nuts, try the polenta-based gorgonzola quiche. Or for a fresher, lighter experience, crumble blue cheese over a Cobb Salad with apples, bacon, pecan, radicchio, and cranberries.