On this day:
1411 – King Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of Roquefort cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon as they had been doing for centuries.
Roquefort (US /ˈroʊkfərt/ or UK /rɒkˈfɔːr/; French: [ʁɔk.fɔʁ]; from Occitan ròcafòrt Occitan pronunciation: [ˌrɔkɔˈfɔrt]) is a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France, and together with Bleu d’Auvergne, Stilton, and Gorgonzola is one of the world’s best known blue cheeses. Though similar cheeses are produced elsewhere, EU law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it is a recognised geographical indication, or has a protected designation of origin.
The cheese is white, tangy, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of blue mold. It has characteristic odor and flavor with a notable taste of butyric acid; the blue veins provide a sharp tang. It has no rind; the exterior is edible and slightly salty. A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kg (5.5 and 6.6 lb), and is about 10 cm (4 in) thick. Each kilogram of finished cheese requires about 4.5 liters (1.2 U.S. gal) of milk to produce. Roquefort is known in France as the king of cheeses.
Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort.
Though it is often claimed that Roquefort was praised by Pliny the Elder in AD 79, in fact, Pliny simply speaks of a cheese from Gaul, not mentioning its origin or even saying that it was blue; the story was promoted by the Société des Caves. In 1411, Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of the cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon as they had been doing for centuries.
In 1925, the cheese was the recipient of France’s first Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée when regulations controlling its production and naming were first defined. In 1961, in a landmark ruling that removed imitation, the Tribunal de Grande Instance at Millau decreed that, although the method for the manufacture of the cheese could be followed across the south of France, only those cheeses whose ripening occurred in the natural caves of Mont Combalou in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon were permitted to bear the name Roquefort.
Roquefort is located on the Causse du Larzac and is famous for its ewe derived products including milk, cloth, meat, eyes, and hoof ornaments. Much of the activity in the commune centres on the production and distribution of Roquefort cheese. A visitor centre illustrates the process of making Roquefort cheese and offers guests a chance to sample and purchase the product. Visitors can also visit the Cambalou caves which are 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long and 300 metres (980 ft) wide in which the cheeses are aged before they are ready to be sold.
Born on this day:
Huntsman was born the fourth child of William and Mary (née Nainby) Huntsman, a Quaker farming couple, in Epworth, Lincolnshire. Some sources suggest that his parents were German immigrants., but it seems that they were both born in Lincolnshire.
Huntsman started business as a clock, lock and tool maker in Doncaster, Yorkshire. His reputation enabled him to also practice surgery in an experimental fashion and he was also consulted as an oculist.
Huntsman experimented in steel manufacture, first at Doncaster. Then in 1740 he moved to Handsworth, near Sheffield. Eventually, after many experiments, Huntsman was able to make satisfactory cast steel, in clay pot crucibles, each holding about 34 pounds of blistered steel. A flux was added, and they were covered and heated by means of coke for about three hours. The molten steel was then poured into moulds and the crucibles reused. The local cutlery manufacturers refused to buy Huntsman’s cast steel, as it was harder than the German steel they were accustomed to using. For a long time Huntsman exported his whole output to France.
The growing competition of imported French cutlery made from Huntsman’s cast-steel alarmed the Sheffield cutlers, who, after trying unsuccessfully to get the export of the steel prohibited by the British government, were compelled to use it in the interests of self-preservation. Huntsman had not patented his process, and his secret was discovered by a Sheffield iron-founder called Walker. Walker, according to legend, entered Huntsman’s works in the disguise of a starving beggar asking to sleep by a fire for the night.
In 1770, Huntsman moved his enterprise to Worksop Road in Attercliffe, where he prospered until his death in 1776 and was laid to rest with a commemorative tomb in the Hilltop Cemetery, Attercliffe Common. The business was taken over by his son, William Huntsman (1733–1809).
At Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital one of the original main buildings is named after him, and in the city centre is a Wetherspoons pub called The Benjamin Huntsman.
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FYI: Long Strange Trip, the first comprehensive documentary to tell the story of the Grateful Dead, is steaming free right now on Amazon Prime. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, and directed by Amir Bar-Lev, the four-hour film can be streamed right here if already have a Prime account. If you don’t, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial, watch the doc, and then decide whether to remain a subscriber or not. It’s your call. (Note: they also offer a similar deal for audiobooks from Audible.)
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