Who: Stichelton Dairy
Where: Collingthwaite Farm, Nottinghamshire, UK
Milk: Friesan-Holstein cow, raw
Texture: semi-firm, blue
Shape: 16lb, 12″x8″ wheel
Flavor: cool heavy cream, savory, mildly spicy, sweet caramel
Stichelton (said like it’s spelled, “stitch-el-ton”, not “stick”) is perhaps cheese-lore’s greatest case of “what’s old is new again.
Back in 1989 a never-proved food-poisoning scare led the Stilton Makers Association to voluntarily mandate that, henceforth, all cheese under the name “Stilton” would be made only from pasteurized milk; as the name Stilton is protected as a PDO, Protected Designation of Origin, true Stilton, made from rich and lively raw milk ceased to be. Moreover, Stilton is typically blends the milk from many sources. Consistency? Sure. More generic? Probably. True farmstead Stilton with all its seasonal variatiosn hasn’t been made since the 1930′s.
In stepped a savior: Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy.
Quoting from Neal’s Yard Dairy background, “Stichelton has come about due to a partnership between Joe (Schneider)* as cheesemaker, the Welbeck Estate on which the farm and dairy herd are based and finally Randolph Hodgson. Recalling the depth of flavour of a cheese he sold about 20 years ago, Randolph set out to find an organic farm and a cheesemaker with whom to start making an unpasteurised blue cheese in the traditional mould. Joe, a very talented and experienced cheesemaker who had previously made cheese at Daylesford and Old Plawhatch was keen to be involved and thanks to the Welbeck Estate he has organically produced unpasteurised milk, of the quality that allows him to make great cheese.”
Joe began with the centuries-old recipe and has been tweaking and adjusting for the last five years. Taking the name from what was purportedly an original name of the village of Stilton as listed in the 13th Century Lincoln Rolls,
Pictures by Stichelton Dairy
the results are a blue cheese that is rich and savory. It’s a dynamic bite, salted-buttery in taste and texture with underlying nuttiness and tender sweetness. Stilton may have the tradition and the marketing machinery behind it and, true, there is very good Stilton out there. But, in my humble opinion, Stichelton is the English Blue of choice.
Here’s Joe making and explaining Stichelton:
*Don’t let the accent fool you, Joe Schneider is an American! Up with the Rebels! An audio interview with Joe: