Friday, October 12, 2012



Roquefort cheese bears the name of the town where it is made.

The city is located in the county of Aveyron. The official radius of Roquefort - where  the 750,000 ewes offer up their milk for this special cheese - includes the Tarn, Lozère, Garde, Herault and Aude. (See map below). The final production of the cheese, h
owever, can only occur in a zone that is 2 kilometres long and 300 metres wide. That's basically, in the environs of the city.

Incidentally, the skins of all those lambs are sent to the city of Millau where they are used to make very fine gloves.

The photo above is part of a huge mural on the end of a building in Roquefort. It advertises the cheese of one of the 7 producers authorized to produce within the Roquefort Appellation.

We took a day trip to Roquefort with our friends Danny and Rozan and their children. We met Christiane - friend of our hosts in Moissac - at her house in Montauban for coffee then we followed her on a tour through the countryside to the city that produces the "king of cheeses".

Some historians say that Julius Ceasar came through here about 57 years before the birth of Christ, and tasted this local cheese. It is  also written that in the 14th C, ruling Charles Vl had a castle nearby, and he gave the locals exclusive rights to produce this special cheese …  Clearly, the Roquefortians do not  promote Gorgonzola and Stilton - also wonderful blue-veined cheeses.

The cheese is cured in underground caverns which are vented by air shafts - natural stone chimneys that were created during landslides in the Combalou Plateau, millennia ago.

The shafts descend from the cliffs way above the city to several stories below the streets into the curing caverns. The airflow helps maintain constant temperature and humidity.

Note below, the cement reinforcement that shores up some of the cliff walls.

Papillon is one of the seven cheese producers. We took their subterranean guided tour. Most of our group were French so that was the language our guide was speaking. 

I managed to decipher enough to learn something about the history and process of Roquefort Cheese production.

So, how is Roquefort cheese really made? If the reader is interested, then read on for my version. If not, skip to the cat photos below.

from July to Nov: lambing and milking. Only raw and unskimmed milk is used.

In the dairy, which is not necessarily in the city of Roquefort, the milk is left to curdle.
Curd is separated from the whey and about 9 days later the loaves are taken to the curing caverns. 12 litres of milk make a 2.8 kilo loaf.

During the 90 to 300 days of curing:

a) spores of Penicillium Roqueforti are added. This blue-green fungus is taken from rye bread that is is left to go real stale as can be seen in the photo below

b) the cheese is perforated, salted and wrapped in aluminum foil


1. With Roquefort cheese, the older it is, the more delicate the taste: and the more mouldy, and the more expensive.

2. Always keep the cheese in aluminum foil in the bottom of your fridge, and just like fine red wine, have it sit at room temperature for about an hour before eating it. 


At the end of the tour we ascend to street level again - herded right into the gift shop for sampling. We buy cheese. We really like Roquefort cheese, yah.

And, yes, I think the cat is waiting for the mouse
who also samples the cheese.


… that is how the French pronounce the name of the big bridge, and the nearby town, from which it takes it's name - "Millau".

(See next posting about the Millau Viaduct)

More travel photography with local information can be seen at my website.

Gary Karlsen's website

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