Cheese University (XVII): Bleu d’Auvergne

Bleu d'Auvergne

This is the rare case of a cheese which literally has been “invented” like the steam engine or the iPod. French farmer Antoine Roussel, living some 40 kilometres west of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region, had the (somewhat weird) idea, to inoculate his cheese with mould fungus that appeared on his rye bread. Roussel must have been a handy man, obviously, because he also came up with the idea to pierce his cheese loaf in order to get some air inside – and a lot of chemical reactions going. Thus, he gave birth to a very renowned French blue cheese called

Bleu d’Auvergne

Roussel experimented with it in the 1840s, and other cheese makers in the region soon followed his example for a simple reason: The strange procedure turned their cheese into something special, precious, it was no longer a dry thing without interest but a creamy, sticky, moist and charming blue cheese that was so good, in fact, that people wanted to buy it. They do so until today. Latest figures available (from 2005) show that well over 6000 tons of Bleu d’Auvergne are produced per year. Ten semi-industrial production sites exist and there’s one farm-house cheese maker left. Bleu d’Auvergne, a cheese made of cow’s milk that ripens at least 4 weeks before going to the commerce, was granted the AOC label in 1975.

It is to be considered a strong cheese, well salted, with a typical “blue” aroma, a full loaf weighs up to 3 kg and has a diameter of 20 cm, a height of around 10cm. It’s an ambassador of its region, Auvergne, which, in France, is not just a geographical name but a philosophy and a concept. Auvergne means deep-rooted “Frenchness”, if you like, the people down there at Massif Central are often described as rural and hearty, authentic and “real”. These are clichés, no doubt, but they mirror reality only slightly blurred.

Is this a cheese for red wine? I would say: yes. Gaillac, Cahors, Cotes du Rhône, try out the heavy fare for this heavy cheese.

Here’s another documentary video about cheese production. But this one comes with bagpipes!

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