Not all blue cheese is the same. Here is a guide to help you find the right one for you. There is as much variety and contrasting flavours and textures in blue cheese as in all cheese, so how do you find out the ones you are going to like from the ones that you might not? There is no substitute for tasting, but narrowing your choice can be easily done by knowing a little more about the different styles and the taste experiences you may expect. Here is whistle-stop tour of some of our favourite blue cheeses that should turn you into an informed shopper.
MILD AND CREAMY BLUES
A good place to start because, even if you are not sure you like blue cheese, there are cheeses here that may change your mind.
A relatively new blue from Nottingham that was created to be like a young Gorgonzola. I have not met anyone who has found this cheese too strong or too blue. It has a supple-soft texture and a melt-in-the-mouth delivery. It is mild, and easy to eat. A great cheese for a blue beginner.
From Tipperary, Ireland, Cashel is a little stronger than Beauvale, but with an even softer texture and a deeply creamy finish. A real crowd-pleaser.
This mellow Welsh blue also has a big fan club. It is a little firmer than the first two, but is still soft and easy to eat. It is also a little stronger, but not so strong that the 'blue-unsure' reject it. In fact, they are usually smitten.
This cylindrical blue from the Auvergne is dense yet soft. At times, it can be a little saltier, but it is always profoundly creamy, and by far the most approachable of the French blues. Xavier Morin is a master affineur, and we always sell his Fourme as it has another dimension of richness and flavour.
Not to be confused with Gorgonzola Piccante, which is strong and for ‘advanced-blue’ eaters only. A good Dolce is the most luscious blue you are ever likely to come across. It is so soft it is spoon-able, with a melting texture that is utterly addictive. It has a slightly ‘winey’ taste that is particular, but not for everyone. One of the truly great blues.
CRUMBLY BLUES - MELLOW WITH MEDIUM STRENGTH
Often called English Roquefort because it is made with ewes’ milk, this blue from Devon is far more delicate and subtle. The blueing is faint, so it doesn’t dominate the taste. The crumbly texture dissolves to a melting sweetness in the mouth.
A blue for goats’ milk lovers, and a sister cheese to Beenleigh Blue The whitest of blues with its ethereal, pale paste and delicate veining. Crumbly texture that softens in the mouth.
Another blue from the same family. Sharing a crumbly texture, but with a greater intensity of flavour than its ewe and goat siblings. The flavour is assertive yet rounded, and the resultant taste is clean and pleasing.
CRUSTED BLUES WITH FLAVOUR AND 'BITE'
Crusted refers to the outside of the cheese that develops a crust as it ripens. Generally it is better not to eat the crust, as it can leave a deeply bitter taste in the mouth that will interfere with the appreciation of the cheese.
Stilton, Stitchelton, Shropshire Blue and Bath Blue
I have grouped these together because they are essentially one style. The important thing to remember here is that not all Stiltons are equal, so expect variation of taste and texture. Hand-ladling is the key to a ‘fudge-y’ texture, and the deeply creamy, almost butter-like, taste of a great blue cheese. A cheese that is over-acidic, over-blue or dry in texture is not what we are looking for! Colston Bassett Stilton, Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue, Cropwell Bishop Hand-Ladled Stilton Stichelton (a raw milk Stilton in all but name) and Bath Blue are all hand-ladled. You can expect a deeply blue taste, but one that is softened by the rich creaminess. In all these cheeses a hint of bitter bite on the finish is also common. Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue The addition of annatto, a natural vegetable dye, gives this Stilton clone its golden-orange glow.
Made from the organic milk of the family-run farm, Bath Blue is made using a traditional Stilton recipe. Proud to say that Bath Blue is the current World Cheese Awards Supreme Champion 2014.
Dorset Blue Vinny
Traditionally made with skimmed milk, it mirrors Stilton in looks alone. The blueing is often random, and the texture drier and more crumbly because of the lower fat content, but it has a clean tang and satisfying blue notes.
INTENSE BLUES- STRONG AND POWERFUL
These are uncompromising in their delivery, but can offer some really contrasting tastes,
The king of French blues, full –bodied, yet exquisitely creamy, and intense. A cheese that has individuals in raptures as the silky, salty, rich cheese melts and slips down the throat. We favour Roquefort Carles as the best example of this strong, yet sublime cheese.
Picos de Europa
Alongside Cabrales to which it is similar this is probably the strongest and most intense of the blues. It comes from from the Spanish Pyrenees and is characteristically wrapped in chestnut leaves. The interior of the cheese is almost blue-grey with a taste delivery that almost fizzes on the tongue. Spicy, and satisfying, but for advanced blue lovers.