Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making 'Stilton' Cheese

I say I'm making 'Stilton' because Stilton is a "protected name" cheese and by law, can only be made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire in England. A similar tasting cheese made elsewhere cannot really be called a 'Stilton'.

As I'm writing this, I am starting on my third try to make a 'Stilton'. The photos are from the first two tries, both of which unfortunately ended up in the garbage bin due to being out of town longer than I expected.

The process of heating the milk with added cream, adding cultures (with blues that means including penicillin roqueforti to give it the blue veining), adding rennet, allowing the curds to set... is pretty much like making most types of cheese. The temperatures and time are a bit different, and so is the draining of the whey and the steps following the draining.

The first attempt was the night in late April when the tornadoes hit close by. I was following the instructions online when the cable went out, so I did the best as I could remember of the instructions until we got service again in 2 days. I decided to keep the cheese, partly because of the cost of all the ingredients and partly as my "practice" blue cheese.

Within 5 days, my 'Stilton' had developed the beginning of a nice blue fuzz on the surface and it was time to put it in the cave. There is a step I didn't do, which is smoothing the rind before putting it in the cave. By the time I got online to the instructions again, the cheese was too dry. (You may be able to see some evidence of the chunky rind in the photo above.)

This photo above is my second try at Stilton, this time with the recipe and instructions printed out! The photo taken after smoothing, but shows a bit of blue growth even through the smoothing which smooshed most of it down... and it's now ready for the cave. Looks a bit like a birthday cake, doesn't it?

If you have never made a 'Stilton' you may not know the rind usually develops a tan-ish color after a few weeks as the blue dies off at the surface. The photo above is my first 'Stilton' attempt, photo at 26 days, and it was developing nicely. You can really see by the chunky look how it was not smoothed early in the process, but in the end it probably would not affect the taste. At this point, it is ready to be pierced, which allows oxygen to travel to the interior so the blue veining can grow. A close look at the photo should show a couple of the pierced holes.

When I came home from my recent over-extended trip and checked the 2 'Stiltons' in the cave, they had become contaminated with bugs because I accidentally left the lid slightly ajar. Both wheels went into the garbage, but first I sliced the one I had pierced, to see how the veining was progressing. I was very pleased!

In fact, I was pleased enough that I'm now working on my 3rd attempt while I'm writing this. I finally have adjusted the mini wine cooler a friend gave me to the temps needed to age blue cheese, so I should have no more worries about contamination or bugs.

Stiltons require aging at about 55ºF for 90 days, and humidity around 90% or higher. Keeping the humidity high may be a problem in the wine cooler; it doesn't seem to go up even with a pan of water in it, so the wheel may have to be in a closed tupperware container inside the cooler, and come out and allowed to breathe once a day. (The blue veining needs oxygen to grow,)

Here it is, ready for the "cave"... it is still pretty soft. Wish me luck!

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