Biology and You

You and Food

What cheeses are associated with fungi?

The unique flavor of cheeses such as Roquefort, Camembert, and Brie is produced by members of the genus Penicillium. Roquefort is often referred to as “the king of cheeses”; it is one of the oldest and best known cheeses in the world. This “blue cheese” has been enjoyed since Roman times and was a favorite of Charlemagne, king of the Franks and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (742–814). Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk that has been exposed to the mold Penicillium roqueforti and aged for three months or more in the limestone caverns of Mount Combalou, near the village of Roque-fort in southwestern France. This is the only place true Roquefort can be aged. It has a creamy, rich texture and a flavor that is simultaneously pungent, piquant, and salty. It has a creamy white interior marked by blue veins; the cheese is held together with a snowy white rind. True Roquefort is authenticated by the presence of a red sheep on the emblem present on the cheese’s wrapper. Penicillium camemberti gives Camembert and Brie cheeses their special qualities. Napoleon is said to have christened Camembert cheese with its name; supposedly the name comes from the Norman village where a farmer’s wife first served it to Napoleon. This cheese is formed of cow’s milk and has a white, downy rind and a smooth, creamy interior. When perfectly ripe and served at room temperature, the cheese should ooze thickly. Although Brie is made in many places, Brie from the region of the same name east of Paris is considered one of the world’s finest cheeses by connoisseurs. Similar to Camembert, it has a white, surface-ripened rind and a smooth, buttery interior.


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