In the counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, a round, blue cheese has been produced for centuries, weighing around 8 kg and never being pressed during the production process. It is made by using cylindrical molds that create its typical, elongated shape, and has a thick hard crust that is pale grey with dusty white patches. During its maturation the cheese is perforated to encourage the growth of the mold that give the cheese its characteristic flavor. To this end, long steel needles are used to pierce the cheese around its circumference. Once the air has penetrated the holes, the Penicillium roquefortii, dormant up until this point, can begin to grow, creating the typical blue veins that cover the cheese. As this process continues, the cheese becomes softer and develops an aroma reminiscent of wine.
This historic cheese is called Stilton, and is one of the oldest in England. Its production began at the end of the 17th century, taking its name from the eponymous village in Cambridgeshire, one of the waypoints along the road from London to York, where travelers often stepped to rest on their journeys. Stilton is mentioned in various documents of the time, one of the most important being Daniel Defoe’s A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain (1727), which states that the village of Stilton was famous for its cheese. Stilton is appreciated for its creamy consistency and delicate aroma, which make a sharp contrast with its blue-veined appearance. It is eaten after maturing for between one and six months.
In 1996 Stilton obtained PDO status from the European Union, but unfortunately the legislation anticipates the obligatory use of pasteurized milk during the cheese’s production, and the six major dairies, which together produce over a million cheeses a year, use a heat treatment during production that kills the original bacteria, deprive the cheese of its aromatic richness and traditional identity, owed to these same bacteria.
There remains only one producer who uses raw milk and the traditional method, and it is precisely for this reason that the cheese cannot enter into the PDO and cannot be called the name that it is entitled to.
Slow Food has decided to sustain this raw milk Stilton with a Presidium, and aims to open a debate on the use of raw milk, which Slow Food believes is necessary in order to preserve historic and traditional methods of dairy production.
Slow Food has decided to establish a Presidium to support Joe Schneider and to increase the numerous producers interested in working with raw milk in the future. Many initiatives have been started to push the Stilton consortium to change the PDO rules and allow the use of raw milk, but this is still an ongoing challenge.
Cuckney Village, Bassetlaw District, Nottinghamshire County
Cuckney - Mansfield
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