Blue cheeses are unique for many reasons, but most significantly, they stand out from the other families of cheese because of the way they ripen. While most other cheeses are bacteria-ripened, like washed-rind cheeses, blue cheeses ripen from mold activity. And, simply put, this mold, whose spores are introduced into milk at the beginning stages of cheesemaking, is blue.Jasper Hill Farm, above.
It's only when a cheesemaker pricks those wheels all over with long steel needles that the blue mold will start to proliferate. Those needle pricks introduce oxygen to the inside of the wheels. Without the oxygen, blue mold can't grow. It's the key to blue mold survival. Once oxygen is introduced, blue mold begins to travel outwards, closer to the rind, ripening the cheese as it migrates outwards.
Blue cheese is the only style of cheese that ripens from the inside-out as opposed to the outside-in. (Reason #2 that makes blues unique.)
And sometimes, if it's been freshly cut off a wheel, a new slice of blue cheese will become bluer and bluer before your very eyes, a trick that's sure to impress if you can time it right.
Related: The Cheese Monger: Bleu de Gex