Roquefort is a type of blue cheese that is renowned throughout the world as the ‘King of Cheeses, Cheese of Kings’. Named after the village of Roquefort in Aveyron, in the south of France, this blue cheese is especially infamous for its pungent smell and characteristic blue veins of mold. Equally fascinating is its unique production process. In fact, Roquefort falls under the ‘protected designation of origin’ (PDO) provided by the European Union Law.
The PDO defines that Roquefort must be produced following certain regulations, such as the use of milk from a particular breed of sheep, the location in which the cheese is matured, and the type of mold used for the maturation process. Hence, to guarantee the quality and purity of Roquefort, only milk from the Lacaune ewe is processed and cultured with a fungus calledPenicillium roqueforti and left to naturally mature in the Combalou caves in Roquefort village.
The story behind the origins of Roquefort blue cheese has been romanticized in a very old legend of the land. The legend begins with a young shepherd who was minding his flock of sheep in the hills of Roquefort when he suddenly sighted a beautiful maiden in the distance. Determined to find her, the shepherd left his dog to guard the sheep and hastily placed his lunch – bread and ewe’s milk curds – in the nearby caves to keep cool.
Roquefort (US // or UK //; French: [ʁɔk.fɔʁ]; from Occitan ròcafòrt [ˌrɔkɔˈfɔrt]) is a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France, and together with Bleu d’Auvergne, Stilton and Gorgonzola is one of the world’s best known blue-cheeses. Though similar cheeses are produced elsewhere, European law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it is a recognised geographical indication, or has a protected designation of origin. The cheese is white, tangy, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of green mold. It has characteristic odor and flavor with a notable taste of butyric acid; the green veins provide a sharp tang. The overall flavor sensation begins slightly mild, then waxes sweet, then smoky, and fades to a salty finish. It has no rind; the exterior is edible and slightly salty. A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kilograms (5.5 and 6.6 pounds), and is about 10 cm (4 inches) thick. Each kilogram of finished cheese requires about 4.5 litres (1.18 gallons) of milk to produce.