As the popularity of his cheese began to grow, Thornhill soon found it difficult to keep up with demand and enlisted a renowned Leicestershire (pronounced "lester-shire") cheesemaker named Frances Pawlett for help in its production. Pawlett then formed a cooperative with other dairies around her Leicestershire farm to produce this cheese using the Stilton recipe.
With its location on the main road from London to Edinburgh, The Bell Inn soon became a main outlet to trade the cheese, with production being moved almost exclusively to Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
Although there are many gaps in the history of Stilton cheese, what is known is that many people most certainly played a part in the evolution of this cheese, making it the delicious final product that we now enjoy.
Today, true Stilton can only be produced in the three adjoining counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire by five licensed creameries. These facilities include Long Clawson Dairy, Colston Bassett Dairy, Cropwell Bishop, Tuxford and Tebbutt Creamery, and Websters. Production of this cheese by these dairies is strictly governed under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the European Commission.
The first step in the production of Long Clawson’s cheese is gathering the milk from their participating dairies. After it is tested, cleared for production and pasteurized, the fresh milk is poured into the vats and starter culture, vegetable rennet and penicillium roqueforti (blue mold spores) are added. During this stage the curds are formed and separates from the whey. This process takes approximately 22 hours.
Each stack is rotated 3 times so it is evenly drained and hydrated. Excess whey can be seen under the stacks as they are rotated.
After the whey is drained, the cheese is ready to be removed from the molds.
At this point the drained cheese, which now weighs approximately 22 pounds, is removed from the molds, smoothed on the outside and wrapped in plastic.
A vat containing Red Leicester
Red Leicester cheese aging. I wish this was smell-o-vision as the rich smell of the buttery casing is indescribable.
Not only is Stilton a wonderful cheese to eat with fruit, nuts and biscuits, it is also a great cheese to cook with. A few years ago my host Karen introduced me to Delia Smith's delightful recipe for Stilton soup which is a combination of Stilton, celery, onions and cream and it was an instant favorite of mine. I couldn't possibly do a post about Stilton without passing this recipe on to you. For more recipes ideas, please click through to Long Clawson's site to see how versatile this cheese can be.
I have to give Delia Smith full credit for the inspiration for this soup, but it is really a hybrid recipe. I combined her recipes for Stilton Soup and Bleu Cheese Soup and also felt I had to gild the lily a bit and add a few touches of my own. Since I think all soups should get the bay leaf treatment I have added one here, threw in some thyme and garlic, added a little extra stock and reduced the cream just a bit. You're really going to love this recipe.