This cheese journey of mine has been beset by many trials and tribulations over the last 8 months. There was the great fridge breakdown of 2011, that heinous stomach flu, then there was Christmas, and there was the cleanse…but through each I soldiered on, and through each of these foibles, the cheese was purchased and sampled-until this week. This Monday I eagerly planned a food field trip to a new cheese shop in a town close by that I had never visited which reportedly-had a number of rare Canadian cheeses-how exciting!
It took me almost an hour to drive to this remote location (I tell you this so that you may appreciate my dedication to cheese). I drove up, parked my car, and made a b-line to the front door which beckoned me-where I was stopped. By the police. A uniformed officer opened the door sharply and informed me “ma’am, we are closed.” It was only then that I noticed the police tape and multiple police vehicles with lights on surrounding the shop. Seriously. I was so gobsmacked by the notion of a new cheese shop that I had blithely walked into a crime scene. That’s how I roll when it comes to cheese.
Thus, today’s cheese is not some exotic little Canadian number that I can wax on about: how rare, how special, the terroir, et cetera. Today we had to settle for something a little more pedestrian and thus available at my local market which is not covered in police tape.
Actually, it’s a good idea to review Bleu de Bresse, AKA Bresse Bleu, as I realize I have not yet reviewed any cheese in this family-the bloomy rind/blue cheese hybrid. There are many cheeses in this family. This is a sneaky little cheese which might surprise you at a party- you see that white mushroomy rind and think, “ah yes, a camembert, I can handle that!” but it’s not until you have cut into it, that you realize the inside is studded with little pockets of blue mold. You have been tricked! The first time this ever happened to me I thought the cheese had gone off and no one had noticed. Nope, they do this on purpose. The good thing about this type of cheese is that it really is a gateway cheese to more intense blues. Because it looks so benign, it’s easy to talk someone into just trying just a little bit. It’s so mild and friendly that it might just be the perfect place to start a foray into blue.
Bleu de Bresse comes from France. It is a cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized milk and it’s definitely factory made. The texture and appearance externally is similar to camembert with that soft, white and edible rind. Bresse Bleu first arrived on the scene in 1951 and comes from the French Province of Bresse-specifically the French village of Bourge-en-Bresse. The brand and trademark for Bleu de Bresse are wholly owned by European cheese giant Bongrain-thus all Bresse Bleu is the same, and all Bresse Bleu is one-there are no regional variations. Alas, I was unable to find any sexy little stories about the history of this cheese, but it reminds me of a nice Cambazola so I like to think that’s the inspiration. I have no idea, really. That’s just me musing aloud.
This cheese is basically a camembert which has our old friend, Penicillium Roqueforti introduced straight into the curds, afterwards it is drained and covered with pulverized Penicillium camemberti to form the outer coating, so it truly is a hybrid, Roquefort on the inside, and camembert on the outside.
My little round of Bresse Bleu is quite attractive and demure. I cleverly purchased it on sale as it was just at the “best before date” which you must ALWAYS do with a soft cheese like this. It does indeed appear to be a boring little camembert-type white mould cheese, but when you cut it open, a little blue mouldy surprise! This one’s quite creamy inside as I waited for just the right time to open it, there is some blue dappling, but it’s nothing crazy. The interior is much creamier and more yellow than I expected. The smell is actually divine, it makes me feel somewhat strange-it’s a tiny bit like pee, but also like mushrooms, truffles, rotten logs and carnal thoughts, all wrapped up into one. Mmm.
Oh yum! It’s actually fabulous. It’s not as salty as most blues, it’s more creamy and sweet with that spicy tang well-balanced by the mellow note of cream. The texture is also fantastic, that camembert rind is really thick and chewy and makes a great contrast to the creamy interior for a great mouth-feel. This really is a fusion cheese, it’s totally camembert, and totally Roquefort, cool. This is not a crumbler, this is a smeary cheese. Wow, it’s good. I think this one would be a good starter blue for those fearful of the real stuff, but it’s good enough for my cheese plate all on its own.
Well, the boys in Blue lead me to Bresse Bleu-maybe it was meant to be, because Bresse Bleu, you are my slice of cheese.