Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, Stichelton.

When you arrive at the Stichelton cheese making operation at 7am, this is what you see. A twenty-five hundred liter tank of warm milk, just pumped a few hundred feet from the cow pen next door. The white stick on top is a paddle — for stirring by hand. Luckily there's not a lot of stirring to do. In fact, there's not a lot of anything to do. Stichelton is a cheese that takes a long time to make. Most of the time is spent waiting.

I keep saying Stichelton and you might be wondering "What is that?" Stichelton is the name cheese maker Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson of Neal's Yard Dairy (Joe's partner) have given to this cheese. In reality it's raw milk Stilton. They can't call it that in England since, there, proper Stilton can only be made from pasteurized milk (a rule that came into being a couple decades ago, though traditional Stilton had been made with raw milk for centuries).

This is Joe's third holiday season. (I say that because, like us, he thinks in terms of holidays. Stilton is the holiday cheese in Britain so he gets a big spike in orders then, too.) His cheeses are much better than they were in 2006, even better than 2007. He continually tests small changes to the recipe. The latest has been to use pre-ripened milk. He doesn't refrigerate the milk so its active cultures get a head start on making cheese. The results have been more interestingly flavored cheeses. Look for them in November.

Next stop: Licolnshire Poacher.


Susan Ederer said...

When you say "pre ripened" you mean the milk has not been refrigerated, right? Am I understanding correctlyt that the milk used to be refrigerated at some point in the process before he made this change?

Tim & Annette said...

Thanks for the great info, Mo!

Mo Frechette said...


Pre-ripened milk is NOT refrigerated. The milk used to be refrigerated before cheesemaking -- almost all milks used in modern cheesemaking are. Traditionally, before refrigeration, they weren't.

Modern cheesemaking milk comes out of the cow at body temp and gets refrigerated. If it's pasteurized it gets heated and then refrigerated again. It gets heated as part of the cheesemaking process another time.

All this heating and cooling has an effect on the bacterial, mold and molecular structure of the cheese. If you think the old adage "To make cheese, start with great milk and then try not to fuck it up" holds water, then these processes are definitely fuckin things up.

Joe's trial sans refrigeration is the right step -- backwards to the future.

Nigel White said...

Hi Zingermans

I think you may have got confused over the naming of the cheese in the USA. Stilton is a registered certification trade mark in the USA and many other countries around the world. So Stichelton is Stichelton and not Stilton. No other cheese can use the Stilton name unless it meets all of the rules relating to the manufacture of Stilton - which includes pasteurising the milk. Labelling Stichelton cheese as Stilton is misleading your customers snd infringes the Stilton trade mark.

Susan Ederer said...

Mo, thanks for the further explanation. I had no idea the milk went through so many temperature variances. Just like most things I eat, I don't like the effects of yo-yo temps -- it rarely makes things better...unless we're talking about tempering chocolate.