Matthew Fort on a cheese to rival the best in the UK
On the face of it, Collingthwaite Farm is an unlikely place to be starting a revolution. The yard is quiet and tidy, the farm buildings impassive. But behind the facades is a purpose-built dairy, an environmental health officer's dream, fulfilling the latest EU directive on hygiene down to the last full stop. This is where Stichelton cheese is taking shape.
Stichelton is like a stilton in every respect bar one - it is made from unpasteurised milk, whereas stilton, according to specifications lodged with the EU by the Association of Stilton Cheesemakers when it was awarded DOC status, has to be made from pasteurised milk. It was not ever thus. That's why cheesemaker Joe Schneider and cheese impresario Randolph Hodgson, of Neal's Yard Dairy, are making Stichelton.
Until about 10 years ago, the Colston Bassett dairy, producer of the finest stilton in the land, made an unpasteurised version. When part of the cheese industry moved towards pasteurisation (a move fiercely and successfully resisted by Hodgson and many of our finest artisan cheesemakers), Colston Bassett ditched its unpasteurised stilton. Hodgson and I shared some of the last unpasteurised cheese made by Colston Bassett. It was a cheese-eating epiphany, a lactic Everest, majestic in its rich creaminess, exquisitely balanced by the subtle bite of the blue, which contained pearls of some amber nectar, layer after layer of flavour released in a perfect sequence of sensation.