The Cheese Course: Au Revoir, Roquefort?
Janet Fletcher - September 8th, 2014
Janet Fletcher, author of Cheese & Beer, Cheese & Wine, and The Cheese Course, and cheese columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than a decade, brings her cheese expertise to FoodArts.com.
France’s most popular blue cheese—Roquefort—may be missing in action this fall on American cheese plates. Stepping up enforcement of its guidelines, the FDA has recently placed this classic cheese and several others on Import Alert, denying them entry. At issue: E. coli counts that exceed allowable limits.
These bacteria live in every human gut and are not pathogenic, but the FDA considers their presence a sign of unsanitary conditions at the creamery. Dairy scientists dispute this premise, but the agency has dramatically tightened its standard for the bacteria, and many raw-milk wheels no longer comply. Although some distributors still have Roquefort in inventory, supplies won’t last.
Fortunately, American cheesemakers can ably fill the gap. If you’re looking for a sheep’s milk blue to round out your cheese selection this fall, consider these superb domestic options:
Big Woods Blue (Shepherd’s Way Farm, Minnesota): a rindless six to seven-pound wheel aged three to four months; tender, moist, buttery and sweet, with faint nutty notes
Ewe’s Blue (Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, New York): a rindless three-pound wheel; less salty and more mellow than Roquefort; moist and creamy, with full, lingering flavor and a sweet finish
Little Boy Blue (Hook’s Cheese Company, Wisconsin): blue-ribbon category winner at this year’s American Cheese Society competition; made only when the sheep are on pasture
Bohemian Blue (Hidden Springs Creamery, Wisconsin): a six-pound rindless Roquefort-style wheel, very moist, crumbly, and more lactic than buttery; moderately piquant