We love blue cheese. The way it crumbles slightly as you cut it, the sharpness of that first bite, and the way it enhances the flavour of sweet and savoury foods alike.
We caught up with Olivia Sutton, owner of artisan cheesemonger Harper & Blohm, to find out more about the process of creating blue cheeses, and what she loves so much about this particular variety.
Say hello to Olivia Sutton
When it comes to cheese, Olivia’s an expert! Olivia grew up in rural Victoria and spent her holidays on King Island, Tasmania, at her family’s farm. After spending over a decade working in cheese wholesale and retail, Olivia decided to open Harper & Blohm, a specialty artisan shop in Essendon, Victoria.
“I’ve always been part of the farming community and have a real appreciation for the time and effort that goes into producing cheese – it’s a lifelong passion of mine,” Olivia says. “As a kid I’d spend the holidays on the farm, and I’d always go back to boarding school with a few kilograms of King Island brie! Nowadays though, I definitely lean more towards blue cheese”.
How does blue cheese get its veins?
“So much effort goes into producing blue cheese – it’s hard not to admire it,” says Olivia. “Most blue cheeses start life in much the same way, but all cheese makers have their own methods and recipes.”
“You add bacteria cultures to good quality cows’ milk, followed by rennet, salt and the blue mould. Different producers use different strains of blue mould, which helps to create a distinctive flavour and colour. Then you leave the curds to set, until the mixture has a jelly-like texture.
You cut the curds, separating them from the whey, and then put them into a mould to shape the cheese. The curds are drained and set, and then they’re spiked.”
“Spiking is the crucial part of the process of making blue cheese, and involves piercing the cheese with a wire. This allows air to get into the cheese to help the bacteria to thrive, and also provides a space for the mould to grow in. Most people think spiking is done with copper wires, but that’s actually a bit of a myth - they’re usually made of stainless steel,” Olivia explains.
“Once it’s been spiked, the cheese might be left as it is to age, or washed with bacteria and rubbed with salt while it matures.
Blue cheeses take from five weeks to around two months to age, which enables the veins to develop. This maturing process, along with the type of mould chosen and the environment the cheese is stored in, all impacts on how strong the blue cheese will be.”
What should I look out for in a blue cheese?
Not all blue cheeses are made equal, and there are certain tell-tale signs you should look out for when buying a blue.
The rind is one of the first things you should look at. The rind of a good blue cheese will be quite dry, and not too sticky or smelly. Colour is also important, and you should avoid it if there’s any discolouration or if the cheese has gone brown or pink around the outside”, Olivia says. “If you’re not sure, just give it a try. A decent cheesemonger will let you try before you buy, so always ask!”
How can I include more blue cheese in my cooking?
Blue cheese pairs well savoury and sweet foods alike, whether it’s adding a kick to a burger or offsetting the sweetness of a fruit cake.
“I prefer to pair a blue cheese with something sweet. Ginger biscuits, fruit bread, and pears all go really well with blue cheese. You can’t beat a pear, rocket, walnut and blue cheese salad – the flavours are classic and just work so well together,” Olivia tells us.
“If you don’t want to head straight for the seriously stinky, you can try something a bit milder to ease yourself into enjoying blue cheese. I’d always recommend a blue brie for people who are beginning to try out different blue cheeses, especially if it’s a triple cream blue brie! It’s so soft, mild and creamy that you can’t help but enjoy it.”
If you’re in Melbourne, head over to Harper and Blohm to check out Olivia’s hand-selected range of quality artisan cheeses, including some stellar blues.
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