Good Stilton is an essential part of Christmas, so we decided to make Cropwell Bishop Stilton our December Cheese of the Month.
Handmade in Nottinghamshire, in the heart of Stilton country, Cropwell Bishop has a velvety soft texture. Its deep complex flavour, with a spicy finish, develops over eight weeks of maturation. The rind is edible and particularly rich in flavour. ,
Cropwell Bishop is an excellent cheese to cook with. Try it crumbled into wintery soups; topping a pear and walnut salad; or melted into bite-sized biscuits as a Christmas party canapé.
- Pasteurised Cows' Milk
- Vegetarian Rennet
What’s special about Cropwell Bishop
The Skailes family have been making Stilton in the eponymous Nottinghamshire village since 1941 when grandfather, Frank founded the creamery. Today the business is led by cousins, Robin and Ben Skailes, who maintain the traditions of cheese-making established by their grandfather.
Cow’s milk comes from fifteen small farms in Derbyshire’s Peak District where good grass enhances the quality of the milk. On arrival at the creamery, the milk is pasteurised before starter culture, blue mould and rennet are added
The set milk is hand-ladled, which the makers say results in a smoother texture than machine-ladling. It is left to settle overnight to form curd. In the morning the curd is ‘milled’, which breaks it down into small pieces, and salt added before it is transferred to cylindrical moulds, called ‘hoops'.
The curd is left to drain for four days, then the makers begin ‘'rubbing up' the cheese. They remove the hoop and smooth the edges with a domestic knife. This seals the cheese, staving off the growth of blue mould until a later stage in the maturation process.
For the next five weeks, the cheeses are left to mature in humidity and temperature controlled rooms where they are turned daily by hand. Here the rind starts to develop its familiar crusty appearance and the aroma begins to ripen. After five or six weeks the cheeses are pierced, with a thin needle to enable the blue mould to develop and give the cheese its characteristic 'veiny' appearance.
After eight or nine weeks the cheese is mature and ready to make the journey to your table.
Traditionally at Christmas, Stilton is served with Port, often a vintage port, however Fiona Beckett on her website Matching Food & Wine, recommends a 10 year old Tawny Port.
Alternatively, if you’ve made or been given a bottle of Sloe Gin for Christmas, we think it’s a perfect companion to Stilton. Its sweetness with a slightly bitter edge works well with blue cheese.
Sauternes is also delicious with Cropwell Bishop. The sweetness of the wine off sets the metallic flavour of the cheese. The Hungarian desert wine, Tokaji, pairs well too.
Richard Skailes, Cropwell Bishop’s producer, likes to drink Champagne with his cheese, the bubbles being a perfect compliment to the richness of the cheese.