Celebrate Blue Friday with American Blue Cheeses

by mncheese on November 25, 2011

in American-Midwest,American-NewEngland,American-South,American-West,Cheese!,Cow,Goat,Milk,Raw,Sheep

Did you save room after yesterday’s turkey feast for cheese? We hope so, because according to the American Cheese Society, today is Blue Friday. Wrong color, you may say. Nope – the folks at ACS are getting a new tradition off the ground by encouraging cheese lovers to embrace the blues on the day after Thanksgiving.

In fact, blue cheese and the yuletide season go hand in hand across the pond, where it’s customary to serve a wheel of Stilton at holiday parties in Great Britain. But we think the quality and variety of American blues leaves you no reason to buy imported cheeses. Here are just a few of our favorites blues to consider for enjoying today and throughout the holidays. Make sure you pick up some port, too.

Midwestern Blues

I’m a lucky gal – the best blues from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa are all regulars at my local cheese shops, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. I picked up a slice of raw-milk Northern Lights Blue (above) Wednesday for a holiday cheeseboard, and my friend Katie and I couldn’t get enough tastes. Made by Joe Sherman, one of the originals behind Amablu Cheese, Minnesota-made Northern Lights Blue packs a spicy, vibrant punch with its thick blue veins and creamy, crumbly paste. It’s a show-stopper on its own or with apple slices, honey and a sweet tipple.

Colleen and I discovered Hook’s Bloomin’ Idiot almost two years ago – in Virginia, of all places – and became instant fans. (Perhaps you could say we were hooked – har, har.) It looks like brie, and the paste on its own is mild and creamy, but the rind contains mold spores that give the cheese the blue kick. Bloomin’ Idiot is not the easiest cheese to find, so snatch it up if you come across it.

If goat cheese is more your thing, seek out Billy Blue from Wisconsin’s Carr Valley Cheese. You can’t beat the combination of a fresh, snowy white chevre with the spiciness of the blue. Sheep’s-milk cheese fans will love Big Woods Blue from Shepherd’s Way Farm in Minnesota.

Pacific Northwest Blues

No list of noteworthy American blues would be complete without Rogue River Creamery’s award-winning cheeses. Rogue River Blue (above), which won Best of Show at the 2011 ACS Conference, was the inspiration behind today’s event. A leaf-wrapped, pear-brandy-washed hunk of blue lovin’, Rogue River Blue is “a testament to Oregon’s terroir,” as Colleen put it in her original review. Buttery, silky, smokey, fruity – all are apt descriptors but fail to give the complete picture. You’ll just need to buy a piece and try it for yourself.

You also can’t go wrong with sister cheese Crater Lake Blue, which, despite being made from cow’s rather than sheep’s milk, closely mimics the taste of our dear Roquefort. Rogue River also makes Smokey Blue, which gets its signature sweet and nutty flavor from the Oregon hazelnut shells over which it’s smoked.

New England Blues

Ah, memories – our very first cheese post three years ago happened to be an American blue. Bayley Hazen (above), from C+C favorite Jasper Hill Farm, will always have a soft spot in our hearts, and a place in our cheese drawers. How can we resist its creamy, salty, raw-milk-tastic bite?

Hubbardston Blue goat cheese (right) is an unusual blue I discovered this summer when I was getting my anniversary cheese deliveries from Cowgirl Creamery. A surface-ripened cheese from Westfield Farm in Massachusetts, this goat cheese gets its blue inoculation while it’s still in the milk phase rather than as a chevre. After aging 30 days, it develops a dusty gray rind and a mushroomy taste.

New England is also home to one of our noted cheese innovators, Laini Fondiller of Vermont’s Lazy Lady Farm. Though we’ve only written about Fondiller’s Barick Obama on C+C, she also makes Lady in Blue, a raw-milk, soft-ripened blue that’s currently in season. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen it in Minnesota, so perhaps one of our New England readers can give us the scoop.

Southern Blues

If your cheese-lovin’ heart belongs to Dixie, look no further than Georgia’s Sweet Grass Dairy, which makes an excellent raw-milk blue called Asher Blue (above). When I’m not obsessing over Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill, I enjoy this assertive, creamy cheese. You can taste the love Jeremy and Jessica Little put into each wheel, which is pierced 50 times by hand to develop the blue veins that run thickly through the paste.

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Mozzarella Company turns out mini loaves of Deep Ellum Blue. Called “a blue cheese for people who don’t like blue cheese,” this cow’s-milk cheese is aged six weeks to develop a moldy blue exterior. Its name derives from the Dallas neighborhood where the cheese factory is located – ironically, an area where blues singers used to perform.

Which American blues will you be purchasing today? Share your finds with us!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: