Bleu d'Auvergne Info
The Auvergne of France
This month we focus on a blue cheese from the Auvergne of France, In the style of their Bleu d'Auvergne. This is one of my favorite blues! It can usually be found on my lunch board when I can find it. It's made from cows milk and is a creamy milder blue. It is also made with less salt than most other blue cheeses.
This cheese originates in the Volcanic mountains of south central France, the "Massif Central."
This is the land where warm summers follow harsh winters. The rainfall is always heavy and the winter snow can fall for 2 to 5 months. The lands are mainly covered with a blanket of green, a very lush landscape producing great pastures.
It is this volcanic soil that gives the rich milk that lets Bleu d'Auvergne cheese develop all of its character.
The Auvergene is really one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Add to that the amazing Saler and Abondance herds and their lush pastures, which are responsible for the amazing cheeses produced there,then throw in some beautiful ancient villages and wonderful food offered by some very friendly folks and it is hard to remember that I am there to work, but this cheese is what is what I came for.
Oh Yes, the Cheese...
The Bleu d'Auvergne is reported to have first appeared in the mid 1850s, making it a rather recent addition to the world of French cheese. It's evolution followed a similar path to the Roquefort cheeses, but with the use of cows milk instead of ewes milk.
Further reading has revealed that these cheeses had been made for hundreds of years before 1850 as simple fourmes ... sometimes they developed blue and sometimes not.
I believe the mid 19th century was the point where they figured that the cheese needed to be of a more consistent quality. They managed this by piercing the cheese body with small holes to encourage the blue to develop and provided a more controlled temperature and moisture to assure its development
The Specifics of Style
The evolution of this cheese is quite similar to the development of Roquefort, except that the Bleu d'Auvergne begins with cows milk and not ewes milk as in Roquefort..Bleu d'Auvergne is a cheese that tends to be milder, creamier, less salty and more approachable than many Roqueforts. .
The key difference between this and other blues is the openness of the curd, allowing for the considerable growth of blue mold internally. This leads to the softening of the curd as the proteins are broken down by the enzymes produced by the mold..
This also makes this a more challenging cheese to make, but a delight when it is done right. The result is a mild creamy blue..
Besides beginning with a high quality milk, the other two factors in being successful with this blue are:.
- Retaining a good amount of moisture in the curd by using a longer hardening phase during the coagulation and cutting the curds larger with minimal stirring and no additional cooking..
- Hardening the curds off by gradually aerating them and keeping the somewhat soft curds separate during draining. This is the hard part and can be achieved by...
Slowly removing the whey while gently stirring the curds thus reducing whey volume and exposing more curd surface to the air..
- Keeping the curds separated during the final drainage to preserve the open cheese body..
- No press weight in the final formation of this cheese..
- The development of a firm skin on the outside of the curds runs counter to what we want with most cheese where we normally encourage the curd to consolidate readily into a single solid curd mass for aging. For this cheese we want a lot of openings inside the cheese for mold growth. . You might compare this visually by imagining a soil of clay that melds together easily vs a pile of gravel that leaves lots of small openings within. I think you can see what I mean with the two photos above. This is where we want to go with this. . The challenge to this though, is that we are working towards a relatively high moisture curd and therefore we can not add heat and lengthy stirring to prepare the curds. I will try to sort this all out as we move along in the process. It may all sound a bit daunting at first but believe me, when you get this one right it will be well worth your while.