If you ever wondered why blue cheese is blue, wonder no more.
To make any cheese, various cultures (usually in the form of freeze-dried packets of yeasts, molds and bacteria) are added to the milk. When a blue cheese is made, a packet of Penicillium Roqueforti is added. Once added, the milk still remains white.
It's not until the cheese curds have been formed into wheels that needles are inserted. Using stainless steel spikes, dozens of holes are inserted into cheese. The introduction of air, causes the mold to create blue veining.
Blue cheese can be made from different types of milk and each will have a distinctive flavor. The popular French blue made from sheep's milk is called Roquefort. Italian Gorgonzola is made from cow's milk. British Stilton, also made from cow's milk is creamy. Maytag Blue, an American version created by a German immigrant in the mid 1800s, is found on many menus as a salad topper. It has a saltier bite and crumbles more easily.
As with all cheeses, the types and amount of cultures, the temperature in the heating of the curds, aging methods, type of milk, flavor of the animal's milk, the amount of salt, and much more, affect the many varieties of blue.
California blue cheeses include Point Reyes Farmstead's Original Blue (similar to a Maytag) and Bay Blue (more like a Stilton), Valley Ford Cheese's Grazin' Girl (a must try) and Central Coast Creamery's Big Rock Blue. Other California blues can be found at Bohemian Creamery and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.
Have a party and do a taste test. The variety will surprise you and you're sure to find a new favorite.