Stilton was first recognised as a type of cheese at the beginning of the eighteenth century.It was given its name by the village of Stilton, just south of Peterborough on the GreatNorth Road, where it was first made and traded. Having originally being made in the town of Stilton, protection by a certification trademark (PDO – Protected Designation of Origin) – means that today the world famous cheese can only be made in the three adjacent counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
The perfect Stilton from Colston Bassett should be a rich cream colour with blue veining spread throughout.The texture of the cheese is smooth and creamy with a mellow flavour and no sharp acidic taste from the blue.The cheese is best eaten at around 12 weeks but this varies from cheese to cheese as each one is an individual. Melt in the mouth perfection is what Colston Bassett delivers. Always popular at Christmas; Stilton is a versatile cheese – essential on a festive cheeseboard but also a tasty additional to a summer salad or enjoyed
with sweet dishes -a partner to chocolate and ginger. A cheese to experiment with – view recipe ideas at www.stiltoncheese.com.
We recommend keeping Stilton in the refrigerator wrapped in wax paper. However, to enjoy the cheese at its best – remove the cheese from the refrigerator a couple of hours before eating, loosen the wrapping and let the cheese warm to room temperature. This improves both texture and flavour. Stilton can be frozen if you find you have too much. It should slowly be thawed in the refrigerator overnight.
It takes around 16 gallons (imp.) or 72 litres of fresh milk to produce one 16lb (7.5kg) Stilton Cheese.
After arriving daily from local farms the milk is pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria, then cooled to 30°C before going to the cheese vats. Once in the vat, starter and blue mould culture (Penicillium roqueforti) are added, then rennet is added in order to set the milk. After setting, the curd is cut up using first vertically bladed knives, and then by horizontally bladed knives until the curd particles are about the size of a haricot bean. The curd then settles to the bottom of the vat over the next several hours, and the whey separates to the top. In the afternoon the whey is drained off, leaving an exposed mat of curd. This is then ladled by hand from the vats into curd trays at the side.
Here it remains until the following morning, when it is milled, salted, mixed thoroughly by hand, and placed into hoops (or cheese moulds). The process thus far has taken 24 hours.
The curd then drains in the hoop under its own weight for 5 days. The hoops are turned over daily to facilitate drainage.
After about 5 days, the curd has drained and is solid enough for the hoop to be removed. The rough surface is now smoothed using an ordinary kitchen knife to seal the surface. The cheeses now go to the New Cheese room where they stay for a further twenty days, turned daily, while the coat dries. Now the cheeses can be taken to the maturing stores.
In the maturing stores the cheeses are turned three times each week until sold. At the age of around four to six weeks, the cheeses are pierced using a piercing machine. This pushes stainless steel needles into the cheese all around its circumference. Once the air enters the holes, the Penicillium roquefortii which has thus far been dormant, can now start to grow, forming as it does the typical veins associated with Stilton cheese.
A second piercing takes place one week later.Three weeks or so after second piercing the cheeses are ready for grading prior to sale. A cheese iron is used to bore into the cheese and remove a plug which can be assessed for level of blue veining, and so the smell and flavour can be checked. This is done to every cheese because only when a cheese reaches the required standard can it be called Stilton cheese.
Shropshire Blue is recognisable due to its distinctive orange body, again with blue veins spread throughout. The natural rind is a deep orange brown shade. The cheese is slightly milder in flavour than Stilton and delicately sweet. Like Stilton, the cheese has a creamy taste and smooth texture with no bitterness or sharpness. The maturation time is slightly less – best eaten at 6-8 weeks.