Top Pick Of The Week

July 18, 2006
Updated September 2009

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Aging Blue Cheese
Aging wheels of Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese. Photo courtesy of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.
WHAT IT IS: A creamy, melt-in-your-mouth farmstead blue cheese from Marin County, California.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: An exceptional-quality cheese that has full, rich blue flavor without any of the sharpness that drives some people away from blue cheeses.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It dazzles the palate, whether in savory company with other cheeses, nuts and olives, or as a sweet dessert with peaches, pears and a glass of Sauternes or Port.

Point Reyes Original Blue:
Page 2: Cheese Making Secrets

This is Page 2 of a seven-page review. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.



Making Blue Cheese: The Secrets Of Success

Many products have a “secret recipe”: Original Blue’s is guarded by Master Cheesemaker Monte McIntyre, a relocated Iowan who has been making blue cheese for more than 15 years. The secret to Original Blue lies not only in a recipe, but in a combination of geography and other factors that produce a unique end product:

  • The Grade A raw milk† comes from a closed herd of 250 Holstein cows that graze in the hilly green pastures Cows At Pastureoverlooking Tomales Bay, a long, narrow finger of water created by a peninsula that separates the Pacific Ocean from the mainland. Since Original Blue is a farmstead cheese, this imparts the distinct taste of “terroir”‡: the cows’ milk reflects the flavor of the terrain. Animals from the same herd moved ten miles away to graze would produce a different-flavored cheese.
    †Raw (unpasteurized) milk retains more flavor, but by law must be aged 60 days or more to kill any harmful bacteria that might be present in the unpasteurized milk.
    Terroir, pronounced ter-WAH, is the French word for soil, land or terrain. The term is used to convey the larger concept of “a sense of place,” its specific soil, geology, aspect, altitude and microclimate—the sum of the effects of the environment on the creation of what is grown there.
  • The coastal fog and the salty Pacific breezes that drift in from the bay impact the vegetation that is eaten by the herd, as well as help cure and age the cheeses. 
  • Time is a human-added factor that influences the outcome: cheesemaking begins within two or three hours of milking. The cheese is made from the freshest possible milk.

The milking starts each day at 2 a.m. and then the cheesemaking begins. Starter cultures, kosher salt, Penicillium roqueforti (the mold that creates the blue veining) and rennet (the coagulating enzyme that creates curds) are then mixed into the milk. After the curds separate from the whey, the whey is drained off and the curds are “hooped” into forms to create individual 6-1/2 pound wheels. The cheese is all natural: the milk is hormone-free, contains no preservatives, bleaches or whiteners, and is made with microbial rennet. (The cheese is also certified kosher and gluten free.)

Curds Aging wheels Wheel
Fresh curds, “hooped” into forms, look like relatives of large curds of cottage cheese. They will coalesce into solid wheels.
The 6-1/2 pound wheels age on racks for 5 to 6 months. During this long aging period the creamy texture and full flavors develop.
Six-month-old cheese is ready for sale.


Continue To Page 3: Serving Suggestions

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