Thank you for the opportunity to introduce you to Blue Mountain Blue, a rare, blue-veined cheese that is expertly crafted by the Blue Mountain Affinage Company of Walla Walla, Washington. Blue Mountain Affinage is a cheese-maker, affineur and purveyor of their flagship brand of cave-aged blue cheese. Its début is at its first formal release on 4 July 2014.
Blue Mountain Blue is made from the raw milk of a small herd of dairy cows, all of whom share the same Irish Shorthorn-Holstein cross in their breeding. The oldest, smartest and most productive of the prized herd is ‘Old Blue,’ treasured by the Blue Mountain Affinage Company for her confidently serene disposition and superb pasture manners. Old Blue and her herd-sisters graze on lush stands of grasses and clovers, and are solely pasture-fed. Their health and nutrition are always at their optimum owing to expert bovine husbandry and pasture management. As such, the prized herd is never subjected to supplemental growth hormones, a practice in common use as a means of increasing milk production in cows.
Blue Mountain Blue begins as the newly collected raw milk is subjected to natural rennet to enzymatically coagulate the high-butterfat curd and to separate it from the whey. The whey is allowed to drain away, and the curd is sliced in two directions with a special multiple-blade knife to cube the newly made cheese. A fine grade of sea salt is sparingly sprinkled into the cubed curds. These curds are stirred to break their size further, and to make the salting more uniform. They are scooped and placed within round hoops to settle under their own weight for two days, during which time the individual curd particles "knit" back together as a final bit of whey drains away before the hoops are removed altogether.
Next, a proprietary complex of several strains of Penicillium roqueforti is introduced by hand with stainless-steel needles, which also create pathways that permit air into the interior of the cheese. The characteristic blue-green veining is then allowed to develop for 120 days in a controlled-atmosphere environment. After four months of this ripening cycle, the rounds of cheese are transported to a solid-basalt cave in the Blue Mountain range above the Walla Walla Valley. For a total maturation span of twelve months, a relatively constant temperature and humidity is achieved naturally, permitting the optimum conditions of affinage.
As a practitioner of affinage, the optimum maturation of the limited-release Blue Mountain Blue is at the heart of what the affineur does best. Affinage is best explained in the following page, The ART of AFFINAGE.