Happy New Years! Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Was it to try more cheese? Excellent-I knew it. I’m so pleased that 2011 is gone-I had such a visceral and personal vendetta against that year. It was just rotten. Speaking of things that are rotten, I had the best Stilton cheese last night and I realize that I haven’t reviewed a single Blue cheese yet! OMGoddess-what a heinous oversight. Although I did promise to hang out in Italy for a bit- and I shall return-we need to take a quick detour back to England to discuss the wonder and glory of Stilton.
Stilton is an English pasteurized cow cheese which is PDO, (protected name and recipe.) Only 5 makers are permitted to create a cheese called Stilton. Ironically, Stilton is only made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire-not the actual town of Stilton. That town makes other cheese. Which is proof that the British are weird. Stilton is available both in white and blue-although blue is much more common.
Blue Stilton has been around since at least 1730- an establishment called the Bell Inn in the village of Stilton was somehow granted the right to exclusively market a naughty little blue cheese discovered in a small farm in nearby Leicestershire. The stagecoach to London often used this Inn as a stop and the folk were introduced to Stilton, and the Stilton craze started and spread from the Bell Inn-in Stilton– outwards. The Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association was formed in 1936 to protect the name and brand and quality of the cheese-but it wasn’t actually protected by law until 1996.
The veins in all blue cheese, including Stilton are created by piercing the half-ripe cheese with stainless steel needles. This allows air and a mould called Penicillium roqueforti to get right into the core of the cheese paste. The ripening of Stilton lasts about 3 months. Stilton is always made in a cylindrical shape and has a natural rind. It is always unpressed and has blue veins. Although Stilton is always made from cow cheese, its cousin Gorgonzola is Italian and made from goat or cow, and Roquefort is French and made with sheep’s milk. There are an awful lot of wannabe Stilton’s and those are the generic “Blue Cheeses” on the market-but if it doesn’t say Stilton, it isn’t. That PDO makes it pretty near impossible to make and market a Stilton unless you are one of the chosen few.
Bizarrely, Stilton has an effect on dreaming, according to a 2005 British Cheese board survey. Stilton caused “unusual dreams” in 75% of men and 85% of women who eat it before sleeping. Holy Hannah, did you know that?
My slice of Stilton was made by Tuxford and Tebbutt (http://www.tuxfordandtebbutt.co.uk/) It was established in 1780 and is located in Leicestershire. The cheeses are matured onsite at the creamery, so you can imagine that this building really reeks! The Stilton from this company has won just about every Stilton award-mind you, with only 5 producers it’s a small field. Tuxford & Tebbutt is the largest exporter of Stilton in the world and makes about 1/3 of the Stilton consumed in overseas markets. Chances are you have eaten this Stilton-if you eat Stilton.
I say…if you eat Stilton…because there are those wrong minded folk who simply eschew all blue-type cheeses finding them foul and vile. Truly, they are disgusting to look at and smell. This is a seriously rotten piece of milk, there’s no hiding it, it’s not affinage, it’s mould. Purposefully pierced and introduced mould. Humans are programmed to not eat rotten food-blue rotten food especially. This cheese is patently wrong. So wrong that it’s right.
My darling little wedge of foul rot simpers beside me. It’s a creamy white shot through with blue mould. It’s almost a cream cheese looking texture once it has had a chance to warm up a little. It does smell a bit, but not as intensely as some of the washed rind cheeses-you aren’t immediately looking for a pool of vomit on the ground and wondering who has stepped in it by accident. Not immediately.
Ohhhhh, mmmmmm, yesssssss. It’s so perfect! Creamy and melty and sweet and just a little like sick-but in a good way. It’s not overpowering at all. The sweetness helps to keep the mould in check, and the buttery texture is just over the top good. It’s just like a little pat of raunchy heaven. It’s transformed simple milk into the utter sublime. I absolutely adore this little bite of foul cream, I hope I have naughty Stilton dreams all night long. I hope you do too!
Happy New Years form “My Blog of Cheese.”