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Monday, December 3, 2007

Roquefort: King of Cheese

Cheese of Kings...


(source)

Charles VI of France was born on December 3, 1368. He was King of France from 1380 to his death. It was under the reign of "the Beloved" in 1411, that sole rights to the aging of Roquefort cheese was given to the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. It was also under the rule of Charles VI that Taillevent was made Head of the Royal Kitchens of France.

The Legend of Roquefort Cheese

Long ago, a young French shepherd boy took his sheep out to graze near the little village of Roquefort. During this time a sudden downpour occurred which forced the boy to take shelter in a cave. When the rain stopped, the boy had to go out and round up the sheep so that he could take them home. However, he had forgotten his lunch. It would be several weeks before he would return, to that particular cave, to find that his lunch was still sitting where he had left it. The bread was dried and had crumbled away and the cheese seemed to have veins of green growing throughout. Although it did not look to be very good, the boy was very hungry and took a bite from the discolored cheese, and decided that it tasted better than any cheese he had previously had. So, the boy ran down to the village, shouting, "a miracle, a miracle," The people that gathered around the boy sampled the cheese, and from that day on they began bringing cheese to the caves around Roquefort so that it could be transformed into blue cheese. The same caves are still used for the manufacturing of Roquefort Cheese, today. This is the story that is so often told that even schoolchildren, by the time they reach the second grade, in Roquefort, know this story, verbatim. (source) Some say, it was on June 4, 1070, that a charter was granted to the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, in the Auvergne region west of Provence, for the production of the cheese. (source)

French Roquefort is one of the original blue cheeses. It is made from ewes' (sheep's) milk, and is one of the world's oldest known cheeses. All true Roquefort cheese originates in the area of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, a town that sits above the limestone caves in which the cheese is made. The caves are unusual because fissures in the walls provide for natural air circulation, yet create a temperature-controlled environment that is ideal for cheese making. They also maintain the damp, cool atmosphere necessary for the growth of the unique mold, called Penicillium roqueforti, that is responsible for the distinctive flavor of French Roquefort.
Pictured is a booklet published by the Roquefort Cheese Association in 1964. The introduction to the booklet stresses the importance of the Red Sheep Seal which is the mark approved by a special committee before export. For products such as small foiled wrapped wedges or bottles of commercial Roquefort dressing, they developed a simplified seal.

Roquefort Cheese
All bottled Roquefort dressings are controlled by license issued by Roquefort Association Inc. on behalf of the industry. Each dressing manufacturer, in order to use the name Roquefort and the Red Sheep Seal, is required to have in his dressing a generous quantity of Roquefort, and no other cheese. Roquefort dressings vary widely in looks and taste, depending upon the ideas of each manufacturer as to what is most tasty. However, they all have two things in common, generous amounts of fine Roquefort, plus the Red Sheep Seal on the label.
Holiday Snowman
2-8oz packages cream cheese softened
2 c. crumbled Roquefort Cheese (about 3/4 lb)
2 tbs. grated onion
1-1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. cayenne

Combine all ingredients; beat until smooth. Cover and chill 30 minutes or until firm enough to shape. Shape cheese mixture into 3 balls, using 1-1/2 cups for first, 1 cup for second, 1/2 cup for third. Arrange cheese balls, one on another to resemble snowman. (Makes 3 cups spread)

To decorate: Use sliced pimiento stuffed olives for eyes and nose; pimiento strip for mouth. Arrange slices of pitted olives as buttons. Thread raisins on cocktail picks and insert as arms. Cut hat from cardboard and cover with aluminum foil.

Here's a recipe for Roquefort Dip from the Queen of Hearst Cookbook

References
1. Charles VI @ foodreference.com
2. Charles VI @ wikipedia
3. About Roquefort (informative blog)
4. What is Roquefort Cheese?

6. Roquefort or Blue Cheese Salad Dressing


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