Aug 10

Colston Bassett Stilton (cheesy lover #93)

FT9 comments • 719 views

A soft-ish blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, bought from Neals Yard Dairy

Coming south from hence we pass’d Stilton, a town famous for cheese, whch is call’d our English Parmesan, and is brought to table with the mites, or maggots round it, so thick, that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.

So wrote Daniel Defoe in 1727.1 Maggots and mites! Our wedge of cheese – bought to savour with a piggerish civilised after-dinner port – harbours no visible wildlife, unless you’re counting the mould. The rind’s a crusty pale biscuit, with a soft white bloom. Inside, the pale yellow paste’s scored and splattered liberally with green-grey Penicillium roqueforti. (P. roqueforti is guaranteed a place in my Top Ten Fungi List, if I ever make a Top Ten Fungi List.)

The stilton is is soft and buttery, melting in my mouth. Where clusters of mould have gathered, there’s a crumbliness like that of clumps of damp toast crumbs; granular, and slightly ticklish. It tastes very blue2, quite salty, slightly sour and tangy, and with a peppery hit to the back of my throat, numbing and prickling it slightly. It’s gloriously rich and creamy – every mouthful seems liken a pleasingly greedy excess. There are subtle fruity notes; a sharp lemon, and something sweeter and darker – ripe plum? Underneath the rind there’s less mould, and and subsequntly a sweeter milky, nutty flavour, and an even richer and creamier texture. The rind itself is crumbly, with a gentle pleasant mustiness and the aroma of hazelnuts.

Cheese-eating chum P suggests that it would be improved by the addition of vanilla, white chocolate, peach and orange rind, and by the removal of the pretty green mould.

I normally prefer Stichelton, and I was really delighted with how delicious this was. It tasted much richer and softer and deeper than I remembered it being; my wedge must have come from a well-loved, well-aged truckle.

1. I hunted this up for the mention of Stilton, but it’s all-round, all-over FASCINATING! Everyone should go and read it right now.

2. What does blue cheese taste like? It’s the cheesy element that I have most trouble describing – resorting to vague words like peppery, spicy, piquant, when they tell only half the story. Saying ‘tastes blue’ feels cheating. Focusing too much on the tang and the fruit and the salt feels deviously avoidant.


  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 23 Aug 2010 #

    I always associate the taste of blue cheese with licking a battery for some reason – that sharp metallic jolt.

  2. 2
    marna on 24 Aug 2010 #

    I have never licked a battery! I might have to, now that you’ve compared it to cheese. BUT WHAT IF I DIE?

  3. 3
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 24 Aug 2010 #

    it has that same acid — or alkali? — burn

    related: century egg! if you can extract the egginess…

  4. 4
    marna on 24 Aug 2010 #

    Pretty much all cheese is acidic, apart from ripe camembert-style cheeses, which can be alkaline. Somewhere on the internet is an FDA-originating list of everything you can put in your mouth, and its pH.

    The blue cheese burn is more like eating peppery needles than eating acid, I think.

  5. 5
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 24 Aug 2010 #

    an FDA-originating list of everything you can put in your mouth, and its pH

    you can’t have pWHOAR w/p pH!

    peppery needles is what i largely recall of the century egg, actually — and “metallic” is a word i would use of the blueness of strong blues, tho poss.not routine stiltons

  6. 6
    marna on 24 Aug 2010 #

    My egg was def. more caustic than peppery, and more sandpapery than needle-ish. Harold McGee says that the pH of a century egg goes up to 12! Maybe that’s what happened poor Pete’s mouth.

  7. 7
    marna on 24 Aug 2010 #

    Oh, I have decided that I want to eat MORE century eggs, but this time I want to put them in a salad with soy and ginger and other mitigating substances. The unrelenting alkali got a bit much halfway through the egg.

  8. 8

    well i still have two left — not sure if they go stale or not! but they are easy to find in chinatown

  9. 9
    unlogged moggy on 24 Aug 2010 #

    Also you can get some kind of weird brain soup with them in in Leong’s Legends in Chinatown, where they are split into manageable halves and quarters.

    (where ‘brain’ is ‘oyster’ I think)

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