Roquefort was one of the first cheeses in France to be given the Appellation d'Origine contrôlée in 1925. The unique caves where the cheese is produced attract some 200,000 tourists annually and provide a living for more than 10,000 people in the Aveyron region.
- The Roquefort cheese is made from ewes' (sheep's) milk, and is one of the world's oldest known cheeses, mentioned as early as 79AD by Pliny the Elder and cheese making colanders have been found in prehistoric excavations.
- In 1411 Charles VI of France gave sole rights to the ageing of Roquefort cheese to the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and all Roquefort still must be aged in the caves there today.
- In the past each house had it’s own cave then the company bought them and joined them together to create large caves. Many years ago there were 30 producers of Roquefort but now there are 7 producers but Societe is the biggest with 80% of the sales. Papillion is unique in having its own bakery.
The sheep"s milk must be transported to the caves in 40 litre containers rather than tankers so the milk-fat is not broken up on the way. This milk is not pasteurized or homogenized.
It is prepared with rennet before the whey is drained off and the curds are ladled off for the mould to be added. The cheeses are then stored for three months whilst maturing (affinage) and turned frequently.
A wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kg and is about 10 cm thick. The mould responsible for the Roquefort distinctive character is called Penicillium Roqueforti and is only produced in the soil of the caves of Roquefort. Traditionally, bread is left in the cave for 6 to 8 weeks until it is consumed by mould and reduced to a mouldy powder. This powder can then be added to the curd or sprayed as an aerosol through holes in the rind.
The caves themselves are perfect for the production of cheese as they have small fissures in the wall, which allow for air circulation while still maintaining a constant damp and cool temperature required to produce the mould.
Genuine Roquefort can be identified by the red sheep seal on the packaging.
- In 1666, a decree by the Parliament of Toulouse became the first legal document to refer to cheese - in this case, Roquefort.
- In 1999 the US slapped 100% duties on the import of Roquefort cheese in response to the EU’s refusal to import hormone-fed.
- Up to 60 other European products (such as have followed Roqueforts lead and been similarly punished. Jose Bove is a spokesman for the campaign.
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For more information contact www.roquefort-papillon.com