Stilton is one if the best British cheeses. In fact, it is a quintessential English cheese that is served not only during celebrations but with every day dishes as well. It is also the only British cheese that has a Certification Trade Mark and an EU Protected Name. Let us know more about the Stilton cheese.
Based on research, the recipe of the Stilton cheese can be dated back in 1722 in the eponymous village because a white, pressed, cream cheese made back in the 18th century bore little resemblance to the cheese we have today.
No one really knows about its distinctive blue veining but some believed it may have happened by accident. As the cheese aged, it produced natural cracks where mold spores would develop, and he early connoisseurs were delighted by this. The flora and fauna of the cheese are at their most active in and around the rind, giving a most complex flavor.
Based in Daniel Defoe’s writing dated 1724, he had a passed a town named Stilton which was famous for a cheese called English Parmesan and it was brought to table with the mites or maggots round it. It was so thick that they bring a spoon with them to eat the mites with as you eat the cheese.
No one knows what made cheese mites tasty in the 18th century, especially for travelers. Today, Stilton cheese is still made using traditional methods, however, modern hygiene standards ensure the rind remains maggot-free.
The fame of Stilton cheese spread because it was made with whole milk and extra cream, not like other cheaper cheese that were made with skimmed milk. Aside from that, geography also played a great role since Stilton was only 70 miles from London. This means that it was a convenient stopping point for coaches travelling north to York or further.
There was a large cheese market held in Stilton every Wednesday and in 1743, Cooper Thornhill who is the landlord of The Bell came up with making something truly special and he began working with a cheesemaker named Wymondham Leicestershire. She came up with a process to avoid having to press the whey from the cheeses. Instead, she molded them in ceramic pipes that were fired with holes where the fluid could drain. This also gave the cheese a classic drum-shape that it still has today. She had set out a high standard for her Stilton cheese which gave it an early reputation for quality.
Cooper Thornhill began serving the cheese to guests and sold it to travelers. Eventually, as Stilton cheese’s superior quality spread, he started supplying it to fashionable cheese mongers in London. The cheese was traditionally made in the summer months, but the rounds didn’t mature until December, making them perfect for Christmas.
When the steam railways were created, it killed the coaching trade and the hotel business of Stilton. But the cheese industry flourished because of the improved distribution. By the 1790’s, Stilton cheese sold at half a crown a pound which is twice a day’s wages for an average farm worker. Its top quality ingredients and an intense hands-on process made Stilton remain to be a luxury cheese that it has always been.
Today, Stilton cheese has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Meaning, it can only be produced in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire, to a legally binding recipe. All of the batch should pass strict quality controls and if one fails, it can only be sold with the name “blue cheese”.
There are only six dairies licensed to create Stilton cheese namely, Colston Bassett Dairy, Cropwell Bishop, Long Clawson Dairy, Quenby Hall, Tuxford and Tebbutt Creamery, and Websters. And none of them are even near the village of Stilton in Cambridgeshire where its name came from.
Characteristics of Stilton Cheese
The Stilton cheese belongs to the family of Blue Cheeses. It is a semi-soft cheese that has a creamy, crumbly, and smooth texture. It has a natural rind and has a spicy and strong flavor. It is made from locally produced cow’s pasteurized milk and is made in a cylindrical shape, allowing it to form its own coat or crust. It has magical blue veins that radiate from its center. Every 100 grams of Stilton cheese contains 410 calories.
To make one 8kg of Stilton cheese, it will take about 78 liters of milk based on the legally binding recipe. Each of the cheese matures for 3 months after the blue veins appear naturally. They are graded before leaving the dairy to ensure them of the highest quality. They are sold at about 4 weeks of age and over a million rounds of Stilton cheese are created each year.
Stilton Cheese Pairings
Stilton cheese has been traditionally paired with sherry and port wine. It can also be paired with Barley wine or most beers. Aside from pairing it with drinks, it can also go well with other foods such as biscuits, bread, crackers, and walnuts.
Stilton is indeed a very special British cheese that you can serve on events and occasions or even during a simple dinner with the family.