Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Stilton is a name that has garnered a world-wide reputation for its flavorful blue cheese. However, Stilton is merely a delivery point. Confusingly, Stilton cheese is not made in Stilton but in the surrounding counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. As a protected denomination of origin, only those counties can produce Stilton cheese. Any other places, including Stilton in Cambridgeshire, cannot carry the name.
The cheese is indeed still very much named after the village of Stilton. The village was once a popular stop on the "Great North Road." This road funcitoned as the main highway between England and Scotland where travelers would stop over and purchase delectable Stilton cheese from the locals.
To find a source for Stilton cheese, I traveled to the county of Nottinghamshire to a dairy nestled in the small village of Colston Basset. This country-side dairy and store is located just outside of Nottingham, England. A pleasant trip by car, Colston Basset is a beautiful example of the tranquil and lush settings that produce quality Stilton cheese!
After our visit to the dairy, we drove into Nottingham. Nottingham is a city with a rich medieval history. You may have heard of Robin Hood and his merry men? They hailed from just outside the old town of Nottingham. In the city center lies the foundation and remnants of Nottigham Castle. This site dominates the city skyline perched atop a 130 foot high sandstone bluff. In and around the bluffs are multiple caves and caverns. You can almost imagine the famed archery contest from the story of Robin Hood taking place in front of you as you walk the grounds.
Once we finished perusing through the castle mount and the museum inside the remodled 16th century ducal palace on the site, we happened upon an interesting looking inn and pub. It claims to be "the oldest inn in England." However, it appears that this title is very much in contest between a few places. Still, being built in 1189 certainly grants it the descritption of ancient! We stopped for a drink to enjoy such an old establishment complete with ghost stories and a charming and cavernous interior.
Following a journey that Stilton cheese for sale would have also followed, we finished our day at the village of Stilton. Stilton is a tiny town on the outskirts of Petersborough. This small village has an outsized name due to its location on travel routes and being known as a place to buy the famous Stilton cheese.
Many of the Inns that serviced the "Great North Road" are no longer around or are hard to find as modern highways have been built around them and the towns they were in. Luckily, The Bell Inn is one that has survived the test of time. Possibly because of its very prime reputation for selling and serving the best of Stilton cheese. To this day, the inn and restaraunt constructed in the 1500s, is welcoming guests to stay and taste the local cheese at it's hotel and restaraunt.
The inn was very well aware of it's place in cheese history. They serve an amazing cheese sampler which featured some of the best local Stiltons one can find.
On this trip, I learned that stilton cheese comes in two varieties. The blue variety that most know and love, and also a white variety. The difference between the two is the mold called Penicillium Roqueforti which is addded to the cheese just before aging. This culture is what gives the blue version its distinctive marbled-blue appearance.
I purchased some cheese at the dairy and at the inn store. 3 different cheeses all made locally...
Shropshire Blue Cheese
9.0 out of 10
-Tart and tangy
-Smooth, creamy and a slight spice from annatto (used to color the cheese)
-Soft edible rind
-A great twist on the traditional blue cheese made here.
9.5 out of 10
-Tangy and salty
-Great aroma and taste that punches up front but doesn't linger.
-Rich and creamy texture
-Soft edible rind
Overall the cheese I tried were all excellent. Colston Basset makes my favorite Stilton and I prefer the original to the Shropshire variety. Try these cheeses with some fruit bread to have them the local way!
Thanks for reading!