By Ken McErlain
Published on Thursday 15 December 2011 10:29
Amateur archaeologist Richard Landy who has made Stilton cheese, from the new recipe, at the Bell Inn, Stilton. Pictured with a Roman cheese mould he unearthed from a dig in the village in 2006. Photo: PAUL FRANKS/Peterborough ET METP-14-12-11PF011)
VILLAGERS in Stilton are celebrating after it was announced that its namesake can finally be produced there again – but under a different name.
Despite being the birthplace of the blue-veined cheese, production moved away in the 18th century. A legal ruling in 1996 meant it could not be produced in the village – until now.
However, there is one condition – the cheese can’t be called stilton.
The village’s Bell Inn, which first sold the cheese, has been allowed to produce and sell it to locals again.
Landlord Liam McGivern (60) said: “This is something to really celebrate. Stilton has come home.
“It was ridiculous that up until now we couldn’t make stilton in Stilton.
“People would come in and ask for it and I’d have to explain we legally couldn’t make it. It was embarrassing.”
One of the pub’s owners in the 18th century, Cooper Thornhill, became the first Englishman to market the cheese.
Local folklore says that he discovered the cheese while visiting a nearby farm in 1730 and made a business arrangement granting the pub the exclusive marketing rights.
Production later moved to Leicestershire, and in 1996 the Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA) imposed a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) order meaning that stilton cheese could only be produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
However, local historian Richard Landy challenged this ruling after finding evidence that the cheese was first created in the village.
Now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has allowed the pub to produce the cheese, using the ingredients and techniques required, for local sale.
However, the cheese must not be called stilton.
Mr McGivern added: “We’re going to call it Bell Blue.
“It will be stilton cheese made identical to the SCMA’s recipe, and we’ll be making three or four batches a week.
“It takes a day to make the cheese and then it has to mature for three and a half months.
“We feel it’s worth the wait!”
The pub has already produced its first batch, and a special launch date has been pencilled in for March 1, which is planned to be a day of celebrations.
Mr Landy said: “The village has every right to be proud of its association with the cheese.
“Two years ago we found evidence that the cheese was created here, but production moved to Leicestershire in the 18th century.
“Since then we’ve been applying to get Stilton in the PDO and finally DEFRA have come to agreement.
“It’s a great day for the village and one that’s been a long time coming!”
FACTFILE… on our best blue
STILTON cheese is known for its characteristic strong smell and taste.
The cheese is produced in two varieties: the well-known blue and the lesser-known white. Stilton can only be made from pasteurised cows’ milk and is allowed to ripen for at least nine weeks.
During which time it is pierced several times to encourage the growth of Penicillium roqueforti mould.
Each Stilton cheese weighs about 7.5 kg and requires 72 litres of milk.
Blue Stilton is the UK’s most popular blue cheese.