Colston Bassett Stilton
If there’s one cheese that speaks of Christmas here in the UK, it has to be a blue cheese, ideally a Stilton and for ‘gold standard’ it has to be a Colston Bassett. Rich, creamy, tangy and full of flavour. The cheese has been around for a long time, with first mention of it back in the 1720’s and it appears to have been first marketed by Cooper Thornhill of the Bell Inn in the village of Stilton. It’s said that Mr Thornhill had been introduced to the new cheese whilst visiting a small farm near Melton Mowbray and was taken by its unique flavour and struck a deal to have the exclusive marketing rights to sell the cheese at his Inn. As the Inn was on the main stagecoach route between London and the North of England, the cheese soon found fame across the country.
In 1996 the cheese was granted PDO status, which protects the name and source of production, so now Stilton can only be called Stilton if it’s made in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
The Colston Bassett Dairy is located in Nottinghamshire, in the village of - yes, you’ve guessed it - Colston Bassett, and is now only one of 4 diaries producing this style of cheese. Set up in 1913 the company has a long history and tradition and the method of production has been kept as close to the original ways as possible including retaining the labour intensive method of hand-ladling the curds rather than mechanisation. It takes a mere 72 litres of fresh milk to make 1 whole Stilton weighing 7.5kg. The distinctive blue veins are the result of the introduction of a blue mould culture - Penicillium Roquefort - into the mixture of milk and rennet. But they only become evident once the cheese has been moulded, allowed to mature and it has been pierced by a series of stainless steel needles which allow oxygen into the cheese and the ability of the mould to grow. After maturing, each and every cheese is checked with a cheese iron that is used to bore into it and remove a core of cheese that is then assessed for the level of blue veining, smell and most importantly, flavour.
Given the history, care and attention that is paid to the production of each cheese at Colston Bassett, it’s no surprise that it is an award-winning dairy. With Gold and Silver medals to their name, as well as Great Taste Awards, their cheeses are much in demand. (They also make Shropshire Blue.) Here’s a short film about the dairy and the work they do https://vimeo.com/79317143
You can find Colston Basset and a whole array of specially chosen cheeses in our shops in the run up to Christmas, but if might be worth pre-ordering this year to avoid disappointment.