Cheese of the month – Stichelton
My cheese of the month has all the hallmarks of a traditional Stilton but a few subtle differences contribute to a very different cheese indeed. This is the mouthwateringly moreish Stichelton.
History of the PDO status
The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) was established in 1992 to protect the production of food-related products. This means that foods acquiring a PDO status must be produced, processed and prepared in a certain region, using certain local ingredients and traditional techniques. Examples of well known foods with a PDO include Jersey Royal potatoes, Orkney and Shetland lamb or Yorkshire forced rhubarb.
Other protected statuses include Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which focuses more on the specific geographical area where the food is produced, processed or prepared. PGI food includes Cornish pasties, Scottish wild salmon and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
PDO and PGI status also applies to certain cheeses. In the UK these include:
- Bonchester – a Scottish soft cheese made with unpasteurised Jersey cow’s milk. Produced in Bonchester Bridge, Roxburghshire
- Buxton Blue – similar to a Stilton, made with cow’s milk and usually in a cylindrical shape
- West Country Farmhouse Cheddar – originating from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Today the cheese is still made using traditional methods and can only be produced with milk sourced from Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall
- Dovedale – a creamy blue-veined cheese which can only be made with milk from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire
- Swaledale – made in Richmond, Yorkshire using a 900 year old recipe. It recently lost its PDO status, as the producers of the cheese had to relocate their dairy to nearby Leyburn. To find out more about this cheese, see my Swaledale Traditional blog post
- Single Gloucester – under the PDO this cheese can only produced Gloucestershire with milk from Old Gloucester cows
- Stilton – there are only six producers currently making Stilton. The PDO covers both White and Blue varieties of the cheese.
- Dorset Blue Vinny – made with unpasteurised cow’s milk in the county of Dorset. The only producers of the cheese are the Davies family who have been making the cheese for almost 40 years
- Exmoor Jersey Blue – made with Jersey cow’s milk in Exmoor, Somerset
- Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar – this award winning cheddar is produced with locally sourced milk from Orkney farms
- Teviotdale cheese – produced on the borders of Scotland and England, this is a full fat hard cheese made with Jersey cow’s milk
- Yorkshire Wensleydale – made in the Yorkshire Dales using a traditional recipe, with milk from local farms.
Despite having a PDO or PGI status, some of these cheeses, including Bonchester, Buxton Blue and Teviotdale are currently not in production.
Stilton cheese was granted a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in 1996. This means that for a cheese to be called Stilton, it must be produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire and using pasteurised cow’s milk.
Production of Stichelton
Stichelton is produced in one of the counties granted the PDO status and is made using a tradition Stilton recipe. However, because the cheese is made with raw milk and animal rennet, it cannot be called Stilton. The team spent a long time trying to come up with an alternative name. In the end they decided on Stichelton which comes from the old English word for the town of Stilton. Recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book, the word ‘Stichl’ means ‘style’ and ‘Tun’ is a ‘village’ or ‘hamlet’.
Stichelton cheese is produced by Joe Schneider and his team on the Collingthwaite Farm in Nottinghamshire. It’s made with organic, unpasteurised milk from a herd of Friesian-Holstein cows.
Having the dairy located on the farm is very important to Joe. It allows him to monitor the changes in the seasons and conditions very closely and see what impact that has on the production of the cheese. It also makes it much easier to use raw milk, which is pumped into the vat once in the evening and then again first thing in the morning.
The milk is warmed before a blue penicillium mould and traditional starter culture is added. After an hour a traditional rennet is added. The curd is then cut into pieces the size of sugar cubes and left to sink to the bottom of the vat. After a few hours some of the liquid whey is removed from the top of the vat.
Then the curd is gently ladled out by hand onto a draining table lined with cheese cloth. The curd is left to drain overnight before being milled to break it up into walnut sized pieces. Salt is added before the milled curd is left to drain in a tall cylindrical hoop for a few days. The hoops allow the cheese to firm up and are turned every day.
The cheeses are then scraped and smoothed with a butter knife, a bit like icing a cake, which prevents them from drying out as they age. They then spend a few weeks in the drying room to mature before being transferred to another room where they are pierced, which lets air into the cheese and allows the blue mould to form.
|Aged for 8-12 weeks +
|Strength and style of cheese:
|Medium, strong, blue
|Creamy, nutty, spicy, savoury, salty, treacle, umami
I can’t get enough of this cheese. It’s creamy yet savoury, with a real umami hit that reminds me of Twiglets. The blue veins are slightly less prominent than a traditional Stilton, making the cheese more delicate in flavour. This still packs a real punch however and the distinct rusty rind has slightly spicy tang.
I paired this with Poulter’s Porter from Timothy Taylor’s brewery. Based in Keighley, they are the last remaining independent brewer of their type in West Yorkshire. The water for their beers comes from the Knowle Spring located underneath the brewery, which is paired with their unique strain of yeast developed over 40 years ago.
The porter is brewed with Styrian Goldings, Goldings, Fuggles hops. It has notes of vanilla, chocolate, coffee and liquorice – perfect to complement the creaminess of the cheese.
The combination could be a little intense for some. So if porter isn’t your thing, a light and fruity red like a Gamay or Pinot Noir is a good option. And you can’t go wrong with the classic port and blue cheese combination.
Personally I think this is one of the more perfect pairings. With a real flavour to savour, it makes the perfect after-dinner treat on a cold evening.