A new blue cheese made with goat’s milk is cause for rejoicing. There are so few. This beauty, from Andalusia, was the region’s first goat blue when it debuted in 2012. Andalusia produces a lot of goat cheese but nothing remotely like this. The innovator? A spunky young woman who married into a cheesemaking family and wasn’t afraid to challenge tradition.
Ana Rosada Pérez learned cheesemaking by working for her husband’s family, making the excellent Montealva. When she hatched the idea to make blue cheese, she knew she would have to build a plant of her own to segregate the promiscuous blue mold. She also needed know-how that local cheesemakers didn’t have, so she spent some time in the Picos de Europa region, home of Spain’s best-known blue cheeses.
For Andazul, Rosada Pérez’s creation, she buys milk from local farmers who herd the indigenous Payoya goats. This hardy breed is adapted to the rugged landscape but endangered; concerned cheesemakers in Andalusia have helped herds grow by developing cheeses to showcase this milk.
Rosada Pérez has devised a recipe uniquely her own. Curiously, she doesn’t pierce the young wheels to create air channels, the conventional technique for spurring blue mold to grow. Instead she aerates the curds manually before packing them into their forms. Importer Michele Buster, who has watched her do it, describes the process as a sort of massage. Apparently, the wheels stay sufficiently open to allow the oxygen-loving Penicillium to thrive.
The five-pound wheels are salted by hand and matured for two to three months. The wedge I sampled had a modest amount of blue-gray veining in a pale ivory paste. The aroma was faintly nutty, the texture moist and creamy, almost buttery, and the flavor rich, mellow and sweet. I couldn’t leave this cheese alone and couldn’t imagine how anyone, even blue cheese avoiders, wouldn’t fall for it. Many people tell me they find blue cheese too salty, piquant or biting. Andazul is none of those things. It has no rind to speak of but some fascinating carrot-colored specks on the outside that I’ve never seen on a blue cheese. I’m hoping a knowledgeable reader will enlighten me. Mold or bacteria?
Andalusia is sherry country, and that’s where I would look for a wine match. Serve fresh figs with Andazul and pour an off-dry oloroso or amontillado sherry.
In California, look for Andazul at Cheese Board in Berkeley, Cheese Cave in Claremont, Cheese Shop @ The Mix in Costa Mesa, McCalls and Milkfarm in Los Angeles, Vivant in Paso Robles, Venissimo in San Diego, C’est Cheese in Santa Barbara and Oliver’s Markets in the Santa Rosa area. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s at Barbur World Foods, Cheese Bar and Market of Choice in Portland, Paris-Madrid Grocery in Seattle and Roth’s in Salem. Other stores that have purchased it recently include The Wine Source in Baltimore, Truffle Cheese Shop in Denver, Houston Dairymaids in Houston, St. James Cheese in New Orleans, Mercado Little Spain in New York City, Di Bruno Bros in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in Pittsburgh.
If you can’t find Andazul but would like to try another goat’s-milk blue, look for Billy Blue from Carr Valley in Wisconsin; Black & Blue from FireFly Farms in Maryland; VerdeCapra from Italy; Chevre in Blue from Montchevre in Wisconsin; Harbourne Blue from England; or Persillé de Rambouillet from France.