Stilton is an English cheese, produced in two varieties: Blue known for its characteristic strong smell and taste, and the lesser-known White.
Both Blue Stilton and White Stilton have been granted the status of a protected designation of origin by the European Commission. The PDO status requires that only cheese produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire and made according to a strict code may be called “Stilton”; thus cheese made in the village of Stilton cannot be called “Stilton”.
“White Stilton” has not had the Penicillium roqueforti mould introduced into it which would otherwise lead to the blue veining normally associated with Stilton. It is a crumbly, creamy, open textured cheese and is now extensively used as a base for blending with apricot, ginger and citrus or vine fruits to create unique dessert cheeses and has even been used as a flavouring for chocolate.
Huntsman cheese is made with both Blue Stilton and Double Gloucester.
A 2005 survey carried out by the British Cheese Board reported that Stilton cheese seemed to cause unusual dreams when eaten before sleep, with 75% of men and 85% of women experiencing “odd and vivid” dreams after eating a 20-gram serving of the cheese half an hour prior to sleeping.
Blue Stilton is often eaten with celery or pears. It is also commonly added as a flavouring to vegetable soup, most notably to cream of celery or broccoli. Alternatively it is eaten with various crackers, biscuits and bread. It can also be used to make a blue cheese sauce to be served drizzled over a steak, or can be crumbled over a salad. Traditionally, a barleywine or port are paired with Blue Stilton, but it also goes well with sweet sherry or Madeira wine. The cheese is traditionally eaten at Christmas. The rind of the cheese forms naturally during the aging process, and is perfectly edible, unlike the rind of some other cheeses such as Edam or Port-Salut.
- For cheeseboard use, take Stilton out of the fridge up to 2 hours before serving to reach room temperature (20 degrees C or 68 degrees F); serve with plum bread or a mango chutney for a change.
- Sweet wines go especially well with Stilton – Port being the favoured choice of many; try a dessert wine for a change or a full bodied robust red wine.
- Stilton freezes beautifully. Simply cut into easy to handle portions, wrap in cling film or foil and freeze for up to 3 months. De-frost slowly – preferably in the fridge overnight. Allow to reach room temperature before serving.
- Stilton crumbles effortlessly for use in salads, soups and dips. If taken straight from the fridge it slices easily for sandwich use. Grating straight from the freezer is also possible and a boon for last minute recipes.
- Roquefort (sharper, softer)
- Gorgonzola (sharper, creamier)
- Shropshire Blue (sharper)
- Gorgonzola Dolce can be substituted for white Stilton.
According to the Stilton Cheesemaker’s Association, the first Englishman to market Blue Stilton cheese was Cooper Thornhill, owner of the Bell Inn on the Great North Road, in the village of Stilton, Huntingdonshire. Traditional legend has it that in 1730, Thornhill discovered a distinctive blue cheese while visiting a small farm near Melton Mowbray in rural Leicestershire – possibly in Wymondham. He fell in love with the cheese and made a business arrangement that granted the Bell Inn exclusive marketing rights to Blue Stilton. Soon thereafter, wagon loads of cheese were being delivered to the inn. Since the main stagecoach routes from London to Northern England passed through the village of Stilton he was able to promote the sale of this cheese and the fame of Stilton rapidly spread.
However, the first known written reference to Stilton cheese actually predates this and was in William Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum, Letter V, dated October 1722. Daniel Defoe in his 1724 work A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain notes, “We pass’d Stilton, a town famous for cheese, which is call’d our English Parmesan, and is brought to table with the mites, or maggots round it, so thick, that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.”
Frances Pawlett (or Paulet), a “skilled cheese maker” of Wymondham, has traditionally been credited as the person who set modern Stilton cheese’s shape and style characteristics in the 1720s, but others have also been named. The recipe for a Stilton cheese was published by Richard Bradley, first Professor of Botany at Cambridge University in his 1726 book A General Treatise of Husbandry and Gardening. Bradley records a letter from a correspondent, John Warner, which states the cheese is made in Stilton and that the Bell Inn produced “the best cheese in town”.
In 1936 the Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association (SCMA) was formed to lobby for regulation to protect the quality and origin of the cheese, and in 1966 Stilton was granted legal protection via a certification trademark, the only British cheese to have received this status.
- Made from pasteurized Cow’s Milk
- Country of origin: England
- Type: Semi-soft, Blue-veined
- Texture: Creamy, Crumbly and Smooth
- Rind: Natural
- Colour: Blue
- Flavour: Spicy, Strong
- Vegetarian: No