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.