If you’re looking for Christmas blues, we’ve picked some favourites that should be on your cheeseboard.
Stilton is a firm Christmas favourite and one with an incredible history behind it.
The English blue comes from the town of Stilton in Petersborough, which served as a stop-over point between York and London. An inn still stands today, called the Bell Inn, that was run by a very enterprising gentleman named Cooper Thornhill. He served slices of the blue cheese that was made close by in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Those who made the stop sampled the delicious cheese and soon they were asking for it in London. Thornhill began sending more than 1000 cheeses weekly to the big city to satisfy the cheese cravings and this very act of fame resulted in Stilton being named after the place that made it famous and not the place where it was made.
Small single-farm production wasn’t enough to keep up with demand, so the Stilton Association was established in 1910. They registered Stilton as a trademarked product and this was the sealing deal for the cheese, meaning it could only be made in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
Stilton was given PDO status, giving even more weight to the exclusivity and production practices required. Today there are just six dairies licenced to produce Stilton, one of which is Long Clawson, from where our Stilton comes.
Dating back to 1911, Long Clawson started as a cooperative, working as 11 partners who made a group purchase of a local pub to set up operations to create their Stilton. Even today Long Clawson’s head offices are still based at the same old pub and are still a farming cooperative that supports more than 100 local farms. They process more than 58 million litres of milk annually to create their Stilton.
More than 77 kilograms of milk go into making just one 7.5 kilogram round of Stilton. With a requirement of no less than 48 percent milk fat to dry matter, the typical cylindrical shape and lovely exterior crust are both key to the Stilton appearance.
Although each of the six dairies may make the same cheese, the taste can be quite different thanks to the area, grass and cows. A good Stilton has a wonderfully rich and spicy taste with hints of cocoa and walnuts. Don’t eat these cheeses when they’re too young as you’ll miss all that fantastic diversity!
Stilton can used in many cooking applications, from sauces to baking, but when matched with a good tawny port or a sweet dessert wine, that’s when we appreciate it the most!
Another bold and beautiful blue we always have on the Christmas table is the much-loved French cheeseSaint Agur.
This relative newcomer in the world of French cheese was created in just 1988, using pasteurised cow’s milk from the village of Beauzac in the Monts du Velay, situated in the mountainous region of Auvergne. A luscious and simply wonderful double cream blue is made using vegetable rennet, which is not as common as the classic French cheeses are all made under regulation and thus more traditional ingredients. It’s the combination of its smooth and creamy texture with a salty and spicy taste that makes it a firm favourite with first-time tasters and– let’s face it – all that wonderful rich cream is so key to this being on high rotate on most people’s cheese boards.
We don’t care that there is no Saint Agur and that the rather odd octagonal shaped cheese really has no history at all to speak of – we just love that it exists!
New to store this year we also have the Grand’Or Cremonte Blue Brie – A beautiful German cheese that combines creamy brie with blue cheese undertones. It brings together the best of both worlds for the brie and blue cheese lover.