Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cheese of the Week: Stilton

The winter arrived to New York this week in full force. After having unseasonaly warm days with 60 F in November, this week it was really cold. Still no snow on the ground.

This weather makes me change my entire eating patterns. While I normally go for light food, when it gets cold outside all I want is stews, soups, and vegetables instead of fruits and tacos. My cheese cravings also change. Instead of washed and bloomy rinds, I only want hardy and blue cheeses.

Cheeses in the blue family are always my favourites and I always find an excuse to buy a piece of blue cheese to eat. I love blue cheese and red wine and Roquefort in potato & leek soup. Gorgonzola is great on toast and Bayle Hazen Blue and Cashel Blue are great introductory blues for a cheese board.

This week for my class at Murray's, I choose Stilton for the cheese plate. I normally don't think of this cheese, as it can be really salty and it is expensive. However, Stilton made it to the last round at the World Cheese Awards and it was easy to get for my class. When I tasted it, I was surprise at how well balanced it was and because the paste was moist and had blue everywhere.

People in my class seemed to like it and worked well to close the class with a familiar cheese. The flavour was described by someone as chlorine, which I attribute to the mineral notes of this cheese and not to a fault in the cheesemaking process.

The politics of this cheese are particularly English. This is the only British cheese protected with a Denomination of Origin. The regulation calls for pasteurized milk, which is strange for a DO cheese. Most other cheese making guidelines require that the milk be raw. However, for Stilton, the particular history about the creation of a British milk board was key to have pasteurization as a requierement to be certified.

In a push to industrialize and make the dairy industry more profitable, the British created a milk board that collected milk from various regions and then served as the sole national supplier. Eventually, the milk quality dropped and pasteurization was necessary to ensure nobody ot sick. This in turn created a national anxiety over raw milk and all cheesemaking techniques changed to use pasteurized milk.

Stilton is the pride of English cheesemakers, so it makes sense that a cheesemaker associated with Neal's Yard Dairy is trying to revive the original recipe made with raw milk. That cheese, however, cannot be called Stilton so it goes under the name of Stichleton. If you find it, buy it. It is amazing and really improves the flavour of the blue mold.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

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