Living for the Weekend Cheese: Bath Blue

Cheese of the Week, Living for the Weekend Cheese, Uncategorized

IMG_7111 In November of last year, Bath Blue cheese was named champion at the World Cheese Awards (held within the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia, London).

How is such a mighty honour bestowed? Wheels within wheels.

To achieve its crown, Bath Blue had to beat over 2,700 other international contenders. The process is one of elimination: first a longlist is arrived at (these are usually referred to as Gold-winning cheeses (silver, bronze and “no award” designations are also applied)). The worthy Gold are then whittled down to an illustrious Super Gold shortlist (at the BBC event there were 50 of these blinged-out top notch cheeses).

Up to this point, 250 judges & cheese-perts have been sniffing, tasting and calling the shots. They wear white lab coats appropriate for the clinical ambiance dominating the great open rooms where these things take place, more airport hall than hearty deli. However, once the Super Golds have been lined up for inspection, cometh the supreme jury comprised (according to The Telegraph and in the case of the WCA) of “12 experts from the four corners of the globe”.

The magnificent 12 then, without X-Factor style showboating (could be interesting though), choose the king of IMG_7104kings. Beneath the champ, but above all the rest, are other major winners with attractive titles such as Best French Cheese (Matured Basque Heart, 2014); World’s Best Unpasteurised Cheese (Bayley Hazen Blue, 2014); and Exceptional Contribution to Cheese (Roland Barthelemy, 2014).

As for Bath Blue, made by The Bath Soft Cheese Co, well it’s a lovely organic blue. An eater. Very creamy, with a mild blue flavour running through its green veins (and with less metallic tang than Shropshire Blue of which it reminded me). A worthy winner.

Next week: nowt.

Week after next: Cheese.

Living for the Weekend Cheese: Shropshire Blue

Living for the Weekend Cheese
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Classiest dressed cheese I ever saw

Colston Bassett’s Shropshire Blue is not from Shropshire, and it’s predominantly crayon orange, but otherwise  the name fits like a glove. It arrived at my home wrapped in someone’s marriage certificate.

It makes sense that Stilton producer Colston Bassett – which celebrated a hundred cheese making years in 2013 – should make Shropshire Blue. The recipe is identical to Stilton, bar two elements: the use of a different enzyme during cheese-making, and the addition of annatto to create the orange perma-tan effect.

The addition of annatto (from the seeds of the Annatto Tree) is a long held practice that originated as a swiz. Historically, yellowish, carotene-rich cow’s milk was meant to be an indicator of higher quality, so cheesemakers looking for a shortcut drafted in annatto as a dye. Make no mistake, however: this is no chump cheese: Colston Bassett’s version scored a Gold Award at 2013’s World Cheese Awards. Annatto has become part of the recipe, and is favoured by the industry as it also helps soften the cheese without tasting of much.

Shropshire Blue is reminiscent in taste of a toned down Stilton: blue tang with an appealing bitterness that gives way to a caramel sweetness. It’s very creamy, which may have to do with Colston Bassett’s decision to still hand ladle their curds (not a euphemism).

However, one thing it isn’t is a handsome cheese. But cheese is for eating, not dating. And this is, as they like to say, an “eater”. The way it keeps crumbling, forcing you to yet again have to tidy, tidy, tidy onto yet another cracker. Marvellous. I’ve also heard it’s a winner in lasagna, and the World Cheese Book sagely recommends crumbling it into salads or soups, or necking it with some port or brown ale on hand.

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The lovers were contented, unaware of the beast that lurked and envied and would soon destroy their bliss forever…

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“Am I so hideous?”

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And they all lived happily ever after.

Living for the Weekend Cheese: Stichelton

Living for the Weekend Cheese

Stichelton

Stichelton is an unpasteurised blue cheese made at Stichelton Dairy on Collingthwaite Farm in Nottinghamshire.

It’s such a tasty cheese that it brought me on board with blues. Previously, I used to pussy out at veins of blue mank running through a cheese. But now I’ll give anything a go, even this here Stichelton which looks not unlike a gangrenous elephant foot in the shot above.

The story behind Stichelton is that it’s essentially unpasteurised Stilton. But a cheese can only call itself Stilton if it’s made in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, or Nottinghamshire, and to the exact recipe as protected by the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

Stichelton fails the test as it’s made with raw cow’s milk, and the recipe calls for pasteurised. This seems like folly to me, since the original Stilton, made back in the olden days, would surely have been raw. But perhaps it suits Stichelton and its maker, Joe Schneider, as its name (the original name for the village of Stilton) proudly proclaims both its kinship and difference.

stichelton Admittedly, I haven’t tried any Stilton since having Stichelton, so I can’t draw  a comparison. But it has that powerful blue taste that you’d expect, which is then drawn into this buttery riptide that just goes on and on. The blueness of blue is still quite overwhelming to me, so I’ll leave it to others to define its flavours. According to Great British Cheeses the flavour is “savoury and lingering”. Accurate, but a bit vague.  The World Cheese Book is slightly more specific: “moves from a fruitiness to a spicy sweetness, all carried within a creamy texture”.

I wouldn’t call it a gateway blue, by any stretch. It’s a punchy cheese, a ‘deep blue’ (like the computer, but worse at chess). But it’s so delicious, so creamy, that it demands fealty. Add some butter to your cracker to take the edge off if you’re unused to blues.

Embrace the rot.

Further reading: 

http://www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk/cheeses/Stichelton.pdf

Where to buy: 

http://www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk/cheeses.html

http://www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk/index.php/shop/cheese/blue-cheese/stichelton.html

http://www.finecheese.co.uk/stichelton.html