Another day, another cheese. And another blue cheese.
This one is an industrial, pasteurised cheese from the Auvergne although it wasn’t always this way. This is what comes from mass production. You get standardised cheeses that really don’t reflect the place where the cheese was made or the season when it was made. This cheese could probably be made from cows milk from anywhere and it would be quite likely pretty much the same. Is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no. You lose a fair amount of the authenticity of the cheese but the dairy farmers who are not cheesemakers have a market for their milk and we have a decent cheese in return that will be pretty much the same every time you buy it. And that reliability is something that some people prefer over authenticity.
This cheese was formally a traditionally made cheese and there is, apparently, an unpasteurised fermier version still available. The cheese was invented [in as much as you can invent a cheese] by a cheesemaker called Antoine Roussel in the mid 1800s who combined the moulds from his rye bread with his cheese and voila. Antoine is also credited with inventing the more popular and more common Bleu d’Auvergne but I suspect that the Bleu d’Auvergne simply evolved from the wider application of Antoine’s discoveries. Antoine’s innovations were based on recreating the naturally occuring moulds that caused his caved aged cheeses to develop mould and then to also “needle” or pierce his cheeses to enable oxygen to penetrate the cheese and cause allow the moulds to flourish.
The use of the mould to create blue cheeses was already well known and the legendary and ancient Roquefort is a cheese that is made to the south of the Auvergne. What Antoine wanted to do was make the production of his cows’ milk blues more reliable. He experimented with different moulds [the container used to give form as opposed to the fungus this time] and then hit upon using bread moulds and knitting needles to standardise the production of his cheeses. This was the time of the industrial revolution and Antoine was perhaps very much a man of his times with regard to these ideas of management, control and regularisation.
These discoveries soon spread in the region and you have two very similar cheeses. The Bleu d’Auvergne has received its Appellation d’Origine Protégée [AOP] whilst the Bleu de Laqueuille is unprotected and perhaps this has impacted on its success. The AOP does seek to protect products that have a history, are strongly linked to an area of production and to a specific knowledge regarding the making of the cheese but, for me, as soon as you pasteurise the cheese you do lose some of the effects of geography and terroir.
But these two cheeses are very similar and if you were faced with a choice, you might be more likely to buy the AOP cheese. The Laqueuille is also a slightly milder cheese than the Auvergne.
This is an unpressed, uncooked, pasteurised cows milk cheese that has been matured for at least six weeks and probably a little longer. The rind is pale grey and brown with some white bloom, dry with sticky patches and quite edible. The paste is creamy and ivory coloured with the pockets of blue, these varying from the size of a grain of rice to pockets the size of a nib [is that what they are called or have I just made that up?] of sweetcorn. The paste is soft, creamy and occasionally slightly crumbly. It is well salted but it lacks the bite of a Bleu d’Auvergne or the hefty bite of a Roquefort [unsurprising since the Roquefort is a sheep’s milk cheese]. There is a slight bite there though and this nicely cuts through the creaminess.
This cheese would be quite happy on a cheese board, perhaps served with something a little sweet such as fruit chutney but would also go well in a salad too. You can try it with pears as you might a Roquefort but the contrast between the saltiness and sweetness will be lost. A red wine might overpower it, unless you have a light red but a white or a fine sherry will probably be better suited.