Roquefort is the oldest blue cheese, favored by the ancient Romans 2000 years ago. It comes from the Aquitaine region of southwest France where it is made from sheep’s milk and cured in limestone caves. It’s discovery is told in the tale of a shepherd that left a hunk of bread and a sheep milk cheese in one of these caves. He found it later, and though it was covered with mold, he pronounced it delicious!
It is the mold penicillium roqueforti that gives this cheese it’s flavor. It occurs naturally in the soil of the local caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France. Traditionally the cheese was made much like it’s origin story. The mold was collected by leaving bread in the caves for several weeks. The moldy bread was then dried, ground to a powder, then added to the curd. Today, the mold is grown in a laboratory, and added via aerosol through holes poked in the rind.
In addition, this cheese must be made from the milk of specific breeds of sheep (Lacaune, Manech, Basco-Béarnaise). Like so many other culturally rich culinary traditions, roquefort’s AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) is regulated by the EU’s INAO (Institut Nationalde l’Origine et de la Qualité).
I know this cheese is often referred to as the King of Cheeses. I also know that the Stilton heads also claim that title. This is a controversy I have no intention of participating in. I love all my cheeses equally.