UPDATE: U.S. officials have announced they are postponing new import tariffs on European Union products (including the 300 percent tariff due to be placed on Roquefort today) due to progress in resolving a trade dispute over US hormone-treated beef. On the eve of today’s deadline, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced a new delay to May 9 in imposing the additional duties “due to recent signs of progress in negotiations with the EU.” And the saga continues …
A 300 percent tariff levied by the Bush administration on Roquefort cheese is scheduled to go into effect tomorrow, making the French King of Blues too costly to sell at cheese shops in the United States.
However, fear not my friends, as usual, Wisconsin cheesemakers have stepped up to fill the gap.
Even though the media likes to portray Wisconsin as the King of Cheddar (and rightly so, of course) did you know our cheesemakers make more than 40 types, styles and varieties of blues? That includes everything from a goat’s milk “Billy Blue”, to a sheep’s milk “Bohemian Blue,” to 36 different cow’s milk blues, including a cheddar-style “Dunbarton Blue.”
That’s a lot of blue cheese.
And before you argue that none of it compares to Roquefort, you should know our cheesemakers are pretty darn creative when it comes to making new styles of blues. Here’s my list of the nine best original blue cheeses currently made in Wisconsin:
9. Black River Blue, North Hendren Dairy, Willard, Wis.
North Hendren’s been making cheese for 85 years, but in 2001, began specializing in blues. I’m a sucker for both their Black River Blue and Black River Gorgonzola, both award winners and striking blue-style cheeses.
8. Buttermilk Blue, Roth Kase USA, Monroe, Wis.
The expert cheesemakers at Roth Kase crank out a ton of original cheeses, and their Buttermilk Blue is one of my favorites. This blue is creamier than most and is made from raw milk.
7. Montforte Blue, WI Farmers Union, Montfort, Wis.
A group of farmers decided six years ago to hire a cheesemaker and start-up a cheese plant in tiny Montfort, Wis. They’ve since struck gold with this award-winning beauty, featuring a piquant flavor and classic blue marbling. Montforte Blue won first place in its class at the 2006 American Cheese Society competition.
6. Billy Blue, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle, Wis.
The only goat’s milk blue on my list, this cheese is unique. Its bright white color, soft, crumbly texture and mild flavor from the goat’s milk contrasts nicely with the sharpness of the blue veins.
5. Smoky Blue, Castle Rock Organic Dairy, Osseo, Wis.
This family dairy began bottling its own milk in 2005, and two years ago, started experimenting with crafting farmstead cheeses. The full-flavor of their Smoky Blue takes you by surprise – I’ve never had another blue cheese like it. Yummy.
4. Ader Kase, Seymour Dairy, Seymour, Wis.
The folks at Semyour Dairy craft a full line of authentic blue cheeses, but my favorite is the German-style blue similar to Cambozola or Montagnolo. Also offered as aged, it blooms into a full earthy, mushroomy cheese.
3. Original Blue, Hook’s Cheese, Mineral Point, Wis.
This signature cheese crafted by veteran Wisconsin cheesemakers Tony and Julie Hook is considered THE standard for blue cheeses and is prized by chefs. The Hooks also make several other blues, including Tilston Point and Blue Paradise, but my favorite continues to be their Original.
2. Bohemian Blue, Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby, Wis.
I absolutely love the label on this brand new cheese, which reads: “For people with artistic or literary interests who disregard conventional standards of behavior.” Created just this month as a joint venture between Hidden Springs’ cheesemaker Brenda Jensen and Hook’s Cheese’s Tony Hook, this cheese will be available for sale in about three weeks.
1. Dunbarton Blue, Roelli Cheese, Shullsburg, Wis.
Chris Roelli’s newest creation is an earthy flavored cheddar blue with just the right amount of blue mold bloom. Open-air cured on wooden shelves, this cheese continues to be my new favorite cheese of 2009.
So there you have it — this list of blues should ease your misery over losing Roquefort. Pace yourself and work your way through each and every one. They’re worth it.