Every country with tradition and history in the production of blue cheeses has its very own standard. In Spain it is Cabrales, in Italy Gorgonzola, in France Roquefort, but in England it is the Blue Stilton.
Blue Stilton is made with the best milk from the Holstein cows that graze in the English countryside. It is fermented with acid forming bacteria and penicillium roqueforti, which gives the cheese its characteristic blue veins. Quintessentially English, Stilton has its own Certification Trade Mark, and is a food name protected by the European Union. What this means is that it can only be produced in the Counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. There are only six dairies licensed to produce this buttery delicacy. It must always have a cylindrical shape and be allowed to form its own crust, which becomes harder and darker as it matures. The weight is always 8 kg and the fine veins that stem form its center should continue to grow under the effects of mold.
This most delicate of English cheeses is sweet to the palate, intense, spicy and has a faint aftertaste of dried fruits. The Blue Stilton is still produced in the same old fashion way described by Daniel Defoe in his 1727 essay, “Tour through the villages of England and Wales”. He writes in one entry: “…we passed Stilton, a town famous for its cheese”, but ironically, Blue Stilton was never been produced in the town of Stilton!
Stilton sits 80 miles north of London, along the old Great North Road. In the XVIII century the village was a pit stop for carriages traveling from London, where guests were offered snacks at the various inns, and the horses rested on their way to York. Cooper Thornill, innkeeper of the celebrated Bell Inn, was responsible for introducing travelers to the delights of these soft, creamy, and moldy blue cheese. It became so popular in and around Stilton that it forever acquired the town’s moniker. Thornill kept secret the fact that he bought the cheese from the wife of France Pawlett, a farmer who lived in a nearby Melton Mowbray. By the time the secret was public knowledge, it was just too late for Blue Stilton to be known by any other name.
More than one million Blue Stilton cheeses are produced every year, but only 10% are exported since British consumers are its biggest fans. The Blue Stilton can be eaten by itself, with a slice of toast, or like the Brits do: pouring a glass or sherry or port into its center.
But it can also be used in a number of recipes like these delicious Blue Stilton fritters. Now it’s time to relax, light up the stove, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine; in the background some English classics, perhaps Elgar or Purcell, and just enjoy.
Blue Stilton Fritters
Ingredients [Serves 4 ]
800 ml Whole milk
6 oz. All Purpose flour
7 oz. Blue Stilton cheese
2 oz. Extra Virgin olive oil
½ onion, chopped
Olive or vegetable oil for frying
Over low heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil until caramelized. Add the flour and keep stirring to prevent lumps. Incorporate the milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Add the blue cheese in small pieces. The heat will melt the cheese, making a compact, sticky dough. Remove from the heat, place on a large tray and allow it to cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Then, using your hands, shape the fritters into the size you desire. In a frying pan heat the vegetable oil. Pass the fritter through the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Fry until golden. Serve hot. ■