ROQUEFORT: a famous cheese, named after the French of Roquefort, where great herds of the sheep that supply the milk are pastured on an immense plain of rich velvet-like herbage, which is stringently protected by both law and custom. Remark able care and skill are employed in its manufacture. The herbage is supplemented by a diet of prepared food; the water supplied to the herds is whitened with barley flour and the yield of milk is stimulated in every possible way, even to beating the udders with the hands after milking.
There are many thousands of these sheep and very picturesque are the milking hours, morning and evening, when the army of pail-bearing maidens hurry over the fields, each in search of a favorite animal.
Every morning, in the farmhouse, the milk is skimmed, strained, warmed almost to the boiling point, emptied into enormous pans, stirred well with willow sticks, a portion of rennet added, and then covered and left to gather into curds—which an hour or so afterwards are cut up into pieces about the size of walnuts. Half a dozen other operations follow, then comes the "moldy bread" process, which produces the special characteristics of Roquefort.
The bread used is made of the finest wheat, or of winter barley, leavened with a large quantity of brewer's yeast, kneaded to excess and thoroughly baked. The crust is removed after standing a day and the crumb is pounded in a mortar and put away in a damp place till it is covered with mold. When it is ripe enough, the new cheeses
are thoroughly rubbed with this moldy bread and layers of it are put between the layers of curd so that they may absorb still more of the mold.
After several days' pressing, the cheeses are wrapped in linen and dried, and then taken by the shepherd-dairymen to the village and sold to the owners of the vaults or caves—natural clefts or artificial exeavatiobs in the limestone rocks—hard by the town. In these caves, the cheeses are piled up and salted, being frequently rehandled and rubbed so that the salt may thoroughly impregnate them. 'They are next scraped and pricked with long needles so that the mold may run entirely through them, and then they are again piled up and left till they are perfectly dry, in this process developing a long white mold which is scraped off from time to time.
Very few, even of those who know the cheese well, are acquainted with all the pains taken to please their palates.
The best season in the United States for serving Roquefort is from October to May, but if kept in cool cellars it may be enjoyed all the year. It is generally eaten in small quantities at the end of a dinner. It is especially delightful if rolled with half its bulk of butter, sprinkled liberally with cayenne pepper and spread on toasted biscuits. It is also used to fill the hollow parts of stalks of celery, etc.