Stichelton: Raw-Milk Stilton

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The story of Stichelton is the story of a couple of brave entrepreneurs trying to reclaim a tradition of English cheesemaking that went the way of so many other traditional foodways. In 1989, England suffered an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses that was blamed on raw-milk Stilton, a cow's milk blue cheese made in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. Subsequently, Stilton cheesemakers decided to switch to using pasteurized milk, and in 1996 the European Commission granted the cheese the status of “protected designation of origin” (PDO). From that moment, if a cheesemaker wanted to create a raw-milk Stilton, he would be legally obliged not to use that name.

Enter American cheesemaker Joe Schneider and Neal’s Yard Dairy's Randolph Hodgson. In a new dairy on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, they're producing a raw-milk "Stilton" that they're calling Stichelton, the name of the village where Stilton originated. The flavor is full and complex, with a buttery tang and a mild blue taste.

In what seems like a response to the PDO rules that forbid them from calling it "Stilton," the cheesemakers have said, "We intend to keep the production of Stichelton small-scale and farm-based and, when demand outstrips supply, to encourage and help others to start production of similar cheese. The name 'Stichelton' is a registered trademark, and we are applying for a European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) to help preserve this traditional new cheese."

Stichelton has spotty distribution in the U.S., occasionally appearing at better cheese retailers, such as Zingerman's, Artisanal, and Di Bruno Bros. It is available in the U.K. from Neal's Yard Dairy and the Welbeck Farm Shop.

About the author: Jamie Forrest publishes from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, and his cheese.

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