Christmas is the best time for cheese. Fact. Cold weather, hearty booze, roaring fires, dark evenings, friends, fun and festivities... all made so much better with addition of the right cheese. Blue cheese. And we’ve found three absolute stunners – Buffalo Blue, Harrogate Blue and Montagnolo Affine!
No-one quite knows why blue cheese suits the winter months so well. But it just does. The addition of good old Penicillium roqueforti (the culture that produces those wiggly estuaries of blue/green dancing through the cheese) changes something simple into something earthy, even dangerous.
Say blue cheese and most people instinctively think of Stilton
Yep. Stilton. The ancient great grandfather of British cheese. Crumbly and fragrant, full of big bold spicy blueness and war stories. The kind of cheese you wheel out once a year to be pitted against that dusty bottle of port you've been saving.
But that is not the whole story when it comes to blue cheese
Modern blue cheese has really grown up, taken a leaf out of the book of innovation, spread its azure wings and reimagined itself as something altogether more subtle and really easy to get stuck into. Did we mention we’d found two?
A tale of three blues
Yes. Three fantastic blues have landed on our Christmas cheeseboard this year, and we are absolutely thrilled. These are definitely not stuffy old soldiers, these are fresh-faced recruits, ready to help you fall in love with blue cheese all over again.
Bring out the buffalo
The first is the wonderful Buffalo Blue. Yes, you heard (herd) right! Buffalo. This distinctive, clean-tasting cheese is made from the milk from a single herd of Italian water buffalo living right here in the UK.
A little Italian but totally British
Buffalo Blue, from the clever folk at Shepherds Purse, is a smooth, rich delicate cheese. Italian water buffalo milk is naturally creamy, perfect for cheese, and the result is a cheese that’s exceptionally, creamy, but clean tasting, soft, squidgey but also crumbly, with the addition of a subtle blue that brings a beautiful tang to balance the salty-sweetness. Swap this sexy, sultry people-pleaser for the Stilton this year and bring your cheeseboard right up to date!
North Yorkshire’s finest
Another absolute belter from Shepherds Purse is Harrogate Blue. Not your usual blue cheese this. For a start it is orange – from the addition of annatto - a natural herbal tincture derived from the achiote tree of tropical America. This imparts a sweetness and rich, caramel finish to a blue cheese that is easy eating and a joyously colourful addition to a Christmas cheeseboard.
German but (sounds) Italian
Last but not least, on our list of amazing blues is Montangolo Affine. This cheese takes the traditional aspects of two super-popular cheese types and brings them together to create an absolute delight!
Twice as nice
We all love soft, ripe brie-style cheeses. Of course. Almost spreadable, gentle and yielding and rather sensuous. Well, the clever people who make this Italian-sounding cheese (they are German, by the way, so think Audi TT not Fiat Punto) have taken all that deliciousness, added a wonderful soft, fluffy grey rind then spiked the whole thing with the most delicate blue threads to make a cheese that really knows how to please.
Only recently invented, this is a modern blue wonder. Spreadable, soft, creamy and of so rich (as a result of its triple crème manufacture – where actual cream is added after the cheese has been made). All held in that fascinating rind with the delicate blue bringing something just a little more grown up.
Not only a belter on a cheese board, this unctuous beauty brings some serious oomf to the kitchen too – stirred through pasta, whipped into a dip or dressing, powering up a soufflé (if you’re channelling Masterchef).
So, why not change up your blue game this year
These three, slightly different, but both absolutely marvellous blues will surprise your guests and make your tastebuds sing Christmas carols. Try one on your cheese board, instead of that tired, grumpy old Stilton or (following our lead) why not get all three – when it comes to blue at Christmas – we say the more the merrier!