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Things to do in the Languedoc:   Food:   Regional Specialities:   Cheeses

Roquefort.  The famous blue cheese made from Ewe's milk. 22,000 tonnes are produced each year in cool natural caves. The blue-green veins are spores of microscopic mushrooms (penicillium roqueforti). Local villagers have enoyed exclusive rights since King Charles VI granted them in 1407.

Roquefort is a blue cheese: probably the most famous of all cheeses in the world. European law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Cambalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may carry the name Roquefort, as it has a protected designation of origin (AOC). Roquefort is sometimes known as the "King of Cheeses". Roquefort is not Pasteurised. It takes 3 months to age, and has had AOC certification since 1925.


The cheese is white, crumbly and slightly moist, with veins of blue mold. It has no rind. It has characteristic odour and flavour with a taste of butyric acid. The blue veins provide a sharp tang. The overall flavour sensation begins slightly mild, becomes sweet, then smokey, then fades to a salty finish.

A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kilograms, and is about 10 cm thick. As each kilogram of finished cheese requires about 4.5 litres of milk, Roquefort is high in fat, protein and minerals, especially calcium.

The mold that gives Roquefort its distinctive character is found in the soil of the local caves. Traditionally the cheesemakers extracted it by leaving bread in the caves for six to eight weeks until it was consumed by the mold. The interior of the bread was then dried to produce a powder. Nowadays the mold can be produced in a laboratory, which allows for greater consistency. The mold may either be added to the curd, or introduced as an aerosol, through holes poked into the cheese.

Roquefort is made from the milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep. It is produced throughout the département of Aveyron and part of the nearby départements of Lozère, Gard, Hérault and Tarn. This area of France is notable for its limestone geology, which determines what species of grass and wildflowers grow upon it, which in turn influences the taste of the milk.

As of 2003, there are seven Roquefort producers. The largest by far is Roquefort Société made by the Société des Caves de Roquefort a subsidiary of Lactadis) , which holds several caves and opens its facilities to tourists. Roquefort Papillon is also a well-known brand. The five other producers, each holding only one cave, are Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Fromageries occitanes, Vernières and Le Vieux Berger.

Roquefort, or similar style cheese, is mentioned in literature as far back as Roman times. In AD 79 Pliny the Elder remarked upon its rich flavour. Cheesemaking colanders have been discovered among the region's prehistoric finds.

Crotin de Chèvre.  Tasty goat's cheese. Tomme de Lozère and Tommedes Pyrénées:  Cheeses made from cow's milk.

Pélardon.  AOC goat's cheese.  Produced from the Cévennes to the Black Mountain and from the Hautes Corbières to the Herault and scrublands of the Gard.

Perail.  Tasty goat's cheese.  (Crotin de Chèvre)

Tielle.  Round cheese from Sète.

The French have extraordinarily complicated rules about how to cut cheeses - different rules for each type. You cannot possibly be expected to know them all, but you will not gofar wrong if you follow the basic rule about taking your fair share of the rind, and a secondary one which is to leave, as far as possible, the remaining cheese in the same shape as it was before you cut it.

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Languedoc Food Specialities: Cheeses

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