View random article

What Is Roquefort?

Roquefort is a kind of cheese. It is called “The King Of Cheeses, the Cheese of Kings”; of course, there are others who simply call it “that moldy, stinky cheese.” Both schools of thought are correct.

Roquefort (named after a French village found in Aveyron) is a blue cheese, the “blue” referring to the veins of mold that give it both its distinct taste and smell. The process of making it is closely regulated. The milk must come from a particular kind of sheep, the Lacaune ewe. The type of mold is also important: a fungus called Penicillium roqueforti. Interestingly the regulations also dictate where the cheese should be left to mature: the Combalou caves in Roquefort village.

One wonders how the people of Roquefort realized that moldy cheese would not only be delicious but would grow to become a million-dollar business. Legend has it that a shepherd who was looking after his sheep saw a beautiful maiden walking far away. He fell in love and was determined to find her. He stored his lunch (ewe’s milk curds and bread) in the caves and went off on his quest. He failed to see her again, though, and after several days returned to his flock. He was so hungry that he decided to eat the moldy remains of his lunch—and was shocked to find out that it was delicious!

However the process of making Roquefort is more intricate than leaving cheese in a cave. The milk is tested extensively to make sure it is of highest quality and then heated to very precise temperatures in large vats. Fungus spores are added to trigger fermentation. The cheeses are drained, salted, and after some time, pierced 40 times before being left to naturally ripen in the caves.

Featured in Life