Colston Bassett Stilton
Colston Bassett Dairy have been making this cheese for over 100 years gathering milk form a 1.5 mile radius of their dairy in the Vale of Belvoir. It’s the only hand ladled Stilton cheese in production and gains its name from The Bell coaching tavern in the nearby town of Stilton who’s landlord in the 18th century was noted for selling a “very fine blue cheese”.
Ingredients: Milk (Cow, Goat, Buffalo or Ewe’s Milk), Salt, Starter Culture, Rennet, Mould Culture.
For allergens, please see ingredients.
Colston Bassett Stilton is often referred to as the king of British blue cheese.
It is the last remaining Stilton cheese to be hand ladled from the vats into the cylindrical moulds by the dedicated cheesemakers at Colston Bassett Dairies in Nottinghamshire.
In 1913, a Doctor William Windley encouraged farmers, who lived on his round in Colton Bassett, to crowd fund a dairy. They raised a £1000, bought a plot of land and built the dairy and started production shortly after the beginning of World War 1. As there was a war on, it was the War Office that decided it was too indulgent to produce Stilton. So, the first cheese they produced was hard pressed, cheddar style cheese.
It wasn’t until 1920 that the dairy started to produce Stilton, but again it was stopped at the outbreak of the Second World War and production reverted to hard pressed cheddars. Gradually, by the 1950s Stilton was being produced again and that tradition continues to the present day.
Stilton was granted the status of a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 1996.
After arriving daily from local farms within a 1.5 mile radius of the dairy, full-fat milk is pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria, then cooled before going into the cheese vats. Once in the vat, starter and blue mould culture (Penicillium Roqueforti) are added and finally rennet is added in order to set the milk.
After setting, the curd is cut up. The cut curds then settle to the bottom of the vat and the whey separates to the top. In the afternoon the whey is drained off leaving an exposed mat of curd. This is then ladled by hand from the vats into curd trays at the side.
Here it remains until the following morning, when it is milled, salted, mixed thoroughly by hand, and placed into hoops (or cheese moulds). The process thus far has taken 24 hours. The curd then drains in the hoop, under its own weight for 5 days. The hoops are turned over daily to facilitate drainage and ensure that the moisture runs though the cheese rather than collects at the bottom. The rind is forms naturally in the maturing stores within which it can spend up to 9 weeks before being sent to the cheese mongers.
As the cheese ages they are pierced using a piercing machine. This pushes stainless steel needles into the cheese all around its circumference. Once the air enters the holes, the Penicillium Roqueforti, which has thus far been dormant, can now start to grow, forming the typical blue veins, that are associated with Stilton cheese, to start spreading throughout the white cheese.
After maturing, every cheese is grading prior to sale. A cheese iron is used to bore into the cheese and remove a core of cheese, which can be assessed for level of blue veining; smell and, most importantly, the flavour. This is done to every cheese because only when a cheese reaches the required standard, can it then be called Stilton cheese.
Stilton Cheese was first written about in the 17th Century and gains its name from the nearby town of Stilton. Which is home of The Bell Inn, whose landlord used to sell it to coaching parties and travellers in the 18th Century. Eventually, those Travellers used to ask for it by the name of; ‘Stilton’ and, ever since then, the Cheese has been called Stilton.
The milk is pasteurised making the Stilton suitable for pregnant woman to eat, according to the NHS guidelines, and, as it uses vegetarian rennet, is suitable for Vegetarians.
Colston Bassett tastes slightly spicy and sweet with a creamy undertone and long lasting flavour. It has a beautiful, soft, crumbly interior that resembles marble. A particular favourite at Christmas time, it is perfect at home on a cheese board any time of the year.
Colston Bassett Stilton won a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards 2015, which is organised by the Guild of Fine Food. It has also received two stars at the 2017 Great Taste Awards.
A great recipe idea is given by Rachel Green; Piccolo Parsnip Fritters with Colston Bassett Blue Cheese Cream Dip.
Of course, it can also be the star of classic cheese board accompanied by a jar of Cheshire Chutney Co’s Cheshire Chutney or Tracklements Caramelised Onion Marmalade and Peters Yard Sour Dough biscuits.
Colston Bassett Stilton is best served at room temperature. Remove from the fridge when you start your meal, let its temperature gradually increase.
When you have finished, resist the temptation to wrap the cheese in cling film or place in an air tight container. Cheese needs to breathe or it will sweat. So rewrap in the wax paper your cheese monger used and place it in the crisper draw of your fridge. Cheese stored like this will keep for up to 14 days from the date it was cut by your cheesemonger. If some white blooming appears, it is totally natural, don’t be concerned, just remove it and enjoy the remainder of your Colston Bassett Stilton.