|Production Area||Southern France|
|Milk||Ewe milk (whole)|
|Fat content||approx. 36%|
|Protein content||approx. 22%|
|Dimensions/weight||25cm × 10cm thick/2.5–3kg|
|Aging time||approx. 3 months|
Roquefort is a flavorful ewe's-milk blue cheese from the south of France. Though the cheese is produced in a number of areas throughout the region, French law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it has a Protected designation of origin. Roquefort is popularly known as "The King of Cheeses", a distinction shared with its Parisian cousin, Brie de Meaux.
The cheese is white, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of blue mold. It has strong odor and characteristic flavor with notable taste of butyric acid; the blue veins provide a sharp tang. It has no rind; rather, the exterior is edible and slightly salty. A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kilograms, and is about 10 cm thick. As each kilogram of finished cheese requires approximately 4.5 litres of milk, Roquefort is high in fat, protein and minerals such as calcium.
The mold which gives Roquefort its distinctive character (Penicillium roqueforti) is found in the soil of the local caves. Traditionally the cheesemakers extracted it by leaving bread in the caves for six to eight weeks until it was consumed by the mold. The interior of the bread was then dried to produce a powder. Nowadays the mold can be produced in a laboratory, which allows for greater consistency. The mold may either be added to the curd, or introduced as an aerosol, through holes poked in the rind.
Roquefort is made from 'Lacaune' breed's milk produced throughout the local département of Aveyron and part of the nearby départements of Lozère, Gard, Hérault and Tarn.
Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a young shepherd, eating his lunch of curds, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he failed to catch her, he returned to his now moldy lunch and ate it out of pure hunger.
Roquefort is mentioned in literature as far back as 79 A.D., when Pliny the Elder remarked upon its rich flavor. Cheesemaking colanders have been discovered amongst the region's prehistoric relics.
As of 2003, there are seven Roquefort producers. The largest by far is "Roquefort Société". "Roquefort Papillon" is also a well-known brand. The five other producers are "Carles", "Gabriel Coullet", "Fromageries occitanes", "Vernières" and "Le Vieux Berger".
See also: List of French cheeses, List of cheeses