The blue cheese of the day is Shropshire blue. I had begun my research of English blues with this cheese, but after reading so many references to Stilton, I decided to write about the Stilton first. At last, I can get to the Shropshire blue, Stilton’s bright orange, much younger cousin.
Country of origin: England (Nottingham county)
Milk: cow (pasteurized)
Type: Blue, semi-firm
Age: 2-3 months
Apparently, Shropshire blue’s production dates back only to the 1970s, in Iverness, Scotland, of all places, where a former Stilton manufacturer took up production of the Shropshire blue, adding some annatto to give it its orange color. Production began in England upon the closing of the Scottish plant.
Some of you may wonder, “What makes the blue veins go all the way through the cheese?” The answer to that is a process called needling, where the cheeses are poked with long, thin needles that allow carbon dioxide to escape the cheese, oxygen to enter, and p. roqueforti to thrive inside the cheese. The Shropshire blue is an excellent specimin to examine the puncture holes made by these needles.
That said, let’s get to the cheese itself. Shropshire blue is just full of eye candy. The beautiful rind forms naturally around the cheese, and is edible. It cloaks the cheese in a mantle of swirling browns and oranges. The flaky, dense paste is a bright orange, which seem to enhance the blue in the cheese’s veins. I found the veins in the Shropshire blue to be more obviously blue than some of the other blues in the store, like the Roaring Forties, or maybe even the Roquefort.
Shropshire has a rather earthy, musty aroma which evokes the caves in which the cheese has been aged, and idyllic pastures. It does not smell sharp or tangy like some other blues.
Tastewise, I could immediately sense the earthy, musty qualities of the cheese. Although this cheese is certainly related to Stilton, it has more robust flavor; it is a little more full, a little more complex. There no spicyness. The cheese’s mouthfeel is rather dense, yet flaky, like a dense cake. However, all of Shropshire blue’s magic disappears fairly quickly. The finish is quite short, and the cheese dissolves quickly on the tongue. Like the Stilton, the Shropshire blue could be a good introduction to blue cheeses.
I paired the Shropshire blue with several of the condiments at the work station to see what worked best. Our shallots in a port wine reduction and the mango/apple chutney were the best ones out of them all!
P.S. Shropshire blue is BRIGHT ORANGE. This being Halloween season, it would probably look great on the cheese board about now!