Stilton is an unpasteurised blue cheese that lays claim to being among the best cheeses that Britain has to offer. Historically renowned as the "king of cheeses", it is found in truckles around 5.75kg in size and is never pressed. It is poured into cylinders to give it is distinctive tall shape. It possesses a tough hard crust, which is pale grey, with powdery white patches. The cheese is pierced during production to allow the distinctive blue mould to develop. This is done by pushing stainless steel needles into the cheese all around its circumference. Once the air enters the holes, the Penicillium roquefortii which has thus far been dormant, can now start to grow, forming as it does the typical veins associated with Stilton cheese.
The cheese is renowned for it creamy, gentle flavours, cut through with the sharpness of the blue. The cheese softens as it blues, developing an intense winey flavor.
Traditionally made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Stilton gets its name from the small town of Stilton in Cambridgshire, which was a trading post for people on their way to London. Travelers journeying from London to York would break their voyage there to refresh not only themselves, but more importantly the horses.
Stilton is thought to have started production in the late 17th century.
It is important to recognise the distinction between creamery and farmhouse stilton. They have the same basic origins, but make use of different recipes and techniques. This obviously results in a different taste. It should also be noted that creamery Stilton is now a PDO that must be made with pasturised milk. The only farmhouse stilton in production, Stichelton, is made with unpasturised milk.