I developed this recipe to try to duplicate an excellent blue cheese available in the United States called “Saga Blue.” It starts with a simple “Farmer’s Cheese” Neufchâtel should also do fine as a starting curd. An inoculum of Penicillium from a cheese you are duplicating is added to the curd, and aeration holes are created so that air can enter the cheese. Temperature and humidity need to be controlled so that aging proceeds at the correct rate, and the cheese does not dry out, nor “weep” with moisture.
I have adhered to my principle of trying to keep the equipment and materials as simple and readily available as possible, so I hope you won’t mind, for instance, using a Phillips screwdriver to create the holes in the curd…
Blender (suspending inoculum can be done by hand)
Sterile clean handkerchiefs (sterilized by boiling water in it for 5 minutes prior to use)
Thermometer reading in the 0-40 C (50-100 F) range
Large Phillips screwdriver or other sterilizable rod
“Cool box” (refrigerator set to 10 C (50 F)
Drained curds from “Farmer’s Cheese”
1 teaspoon of uncontaminated “Saga Blue” cheese (or other selected blue cheese to use as an inoculum)
In a blender, blend 1 teaspoon of uncontaminated blue cheese (I used “Saga Blue”) with 1/4 cup of cool clean water to create a smooth suspension of cheese (the inoculum).
Pour the inoculum over the salted curds, toss to mix thoroughly.
Line the press with a sterile handkerchief (sterilized by boiling), and load the curd. Press lightly so that the curd are not compressed together, but instead retain air spaces within the cheese.
Leave in the press overnight
The next morning, remove from the press, and create air hole by inserting a sterilized rod, about 1/4 inch in diameter (6 mm) through the cheese every inch or so. This is to allow air to enter the cheese which is necessary for growth of the mold. [I used a phillips screwdriver which had been dipped in Vodka. One could also boil to sterilize. You do NOT want to introduce bacterial contamination in these air holes.]
Rub the surface lightly with salt, and place the aerated cheese on a dry sterile handkerchief. Fold the cloth over to lightly cover.
Place on a non corrosive rack to encourage air circulation around the cheese.
Place the cheese on the rack in a “cool box” which will hold the temperature around 10 C (50 F). Here I am using a refrigerator in our basement which stays around this temperature during the late winter when I made this cheese. If you can turn the thermostat high enough to maintain this temperature, that will work fine.
Monitor the temperature and humidity. The temperature should be around 10 C, and the humidity around 70%. You can elevate the humidity with a pan of water in the bottom of the “cool box.” Since the cheese will be aged unwaxed, this high humidity is important so that the cheese does not dry out. On the other hand, if it is “dripping wet” so that the cheese “weeps,” the cheese will spoil. Turn the cheese daily, replace the handkerchief with a dry sterile one if it appears wet.
After a week or ten days, a white “bloom” appears on the surface of the cheese. Note that the holes I made are filled with the bloom. They should have been larger so that air would not be excluded from the interior of the cheese. Indeed, after a month and a half, the outside had developed a white with green bloom, but the interior (I cut it open), lacked any green. I replaced it in the “cool box” and within two weeks, the interior exhibited the characteristic coloring.
Here is the finished blue cheese after two months. Note the marbling of the interior with Penicillium. It could doubtless be aged longer, but it is utterly delicious as it is.
Here is a closer look at the bloom on the rind, and the appearance of the sliced cheese. Wish you could taste it.