Excerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday and Anna Colquhoun:
Britain was once teeming with cheesemakers: in the 1930s over sixteen-hundred farms were making it. By the early nineties that number had dwindled to one-hundred, due to post-war industrialisation of cheesemaking, supermarkets driving demand for mass-produced cheese and food safety concerns. The number is creeping up again, though, and Joe Schneider – “an American who started out making Greek cheese for a Turk in Holland” – is part of the renaissance.
Over a pint in a London pub in 2004 Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy planted the idea in Joe’s mind of recreating raw milk Stilton, which had disappeared in 1989 due to unproven health scares …
The alchemy of turning mild white milk into such complexity of flavour, texture and colour has fascinated us for millennia. To create Stichelton, tiny amounts of rennet set the curds, as they would in a calf’s stomach, the starter weaves its bacterial magic, and penicillium roqueforti blooms into blue-green veins. Until the Stichelton is pierced, it is dry, crumbly and acidic; activated by air, the mould interacts with proteins and fats creating that buttery texture. Over three months a rind forms, and cheesemaker, then affineur, watches like a hawk and manipulates time, temperature and humidity. As one noted Edwardian Stilton-maker remarked, “stiltons … are more trouble than babies.”