The Bleu d'Auvergne cheese: Introduction
The name of this cheese comes from the province of origin and the texture of the cheese. Its history is without doubt linked to that of Roquefort (which is older), of which the Bleu d'Auvergne was an imitation using cow's milk. The Bleu d'Auvergne cheese is in the shape of a cylinder and weighs around 2.5 grams. It is matured for 3 months in the cool, humid cheese cellar.
Exterior appearance of the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese: open, deep veining
Odour of the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese: quite strong but not excessively
Texture of the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese: firm and slightly supple
Taste of the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese: pronounced, not excessively salty.
History of the Bleu d' Auvergne cheese
It is about 40km west of Clermont-Ferrand that for many decades the Bleu d'Auvergne has earned an undeniable identity and reputation. In 1845, life in the high mountains was hard. The ways of communicating, which for a long time had been rudimentary, started to be improved and little by little opened up the population of the region who had lived self-sufficiently for so long. Antoine-Roussel (the man who mastered the making of the cheese) was born in this region. After a brief time at a pharmacy in Rouen, he returned to the town of Lequeille when his father died. As the eldest sibling of a large family, he took it upon himself to look after the needs of his brothers and sisters.
The cheese made by Roussel was in those days lightly pressed (a simple stone was sufficient) and the curds were hardly mixed at all. The product, which was not very good quality, was difficult to sell. Certain pieces grew blue mould accidentally in the cheese cellars which brought a flavour which Roussel called "special, pleasant and perfumed." It was this blue mould which Roussel wanted to develop. He carried out many experiments and modified the process of fabrication. He preferred wooden moulds to those made of terra cotta (which were soon after replaced by moulds made of tin). After many unsuccessful experiments, he realised that rye bread, when placed in the proximity of the blue cheese turned it blue in the same way as it would naturally turn blue. His idea of creating the mould in this way was a huge success.
He had found the secret of growing the blue mould which he perfected artificially by creating holes in the cheese with a needle and then pressed into pieces of wood. In 1854, Georges Mathieu, director of the school of the dairy industry of Aurillac, said that Antoine-Roussel "came to realise a microbial method of turning the cheeses blue and an organic culture and in this way the 'spontanous generation' theory was finally accepted by everyone. It was only three years later in 1857 that Louis Pasteur presented his first thesis about the milk fermentation process and in 1860 he proved that the germs which exist in the air can multiply on organic matter."
In 1893 the first study was published which talked about the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese which was called "cheese made in the Roquefort way." The 27th August 1937, the first decree was published which defined the features of the Bleu d'Auvergne cheese. On the 7th March 1975 the decree defining the achievement of the AOC classification. This quality cheese which became the Bleu d'Auvergne did not have to wait long to become popular. Quickly the cheese was sold 4 or 5 times more expensive than other traditional blue cheeses and this meant that it developed so much that it was difficult to respond to the demand.
The fabrication of the blue veined cheese of Cantal which weighs around 50kg needs the milk of 18 to 20 cows. The introduction of the "Bleu" farmer permitted the small hold cattle farmers to transform their milk into cheese, and so adding value to their production. The maturing process developed rapidly and soon became centralised amongst a dozen merchants of the districts of Saignes, Vic-sur-Cère and Riom-ès-Montagnes. For the fabrication of the Bleu, this process substituted that of the Bleu dairy. In 1891, the first dairy was started at Sartre, a commune of Cheylade. On the eve of the First World War, there were around 20 dairies but most of the Bleu cheese was still produced on farms which were then regrouped into merchants-affineurs. It wasn't until 1929 with the world economic crisis that the producers worked towards a perfect way of producing the cheese. The mediocre products soon disappeared. With the effect of the crisis, the sale of milk to the dairies escalated. In effect this made up for the slump in grain and cattle.