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After the starter culture has been added to the milk and its acidity level starts to rise, a blue penicillin mould is sprinkled in, followed by the rennet. The mould can be either Penicillium Roqueforti, hence the name of the famous French Roquefort, or Penicillium Glaucum.
Blue cheeses are never pressed as this allows the mould to grow and spread, and so the cheeses have to be turned frequently in order for the weight of the curd to force out any excess whey.
Generally speaking, the cheeses are pierced with rods at some point to let in air. This helps the mould to grow and spread throughout the cheese and assists in the blueing process. Sometimes in a really soft, brie style blue cheese the mould has to be injected into the young cheeses, as obviously piercing them wouldn't work.
A common misconception in our shops is for people to ask about our range of 'stiltons'. The generic name for this style of cheese is 'blue cheese', and Stilton is only one example of this group, albeit the most famous. Stilton itself became famous through being served to travellers in the Bell Inn at Stilton as far back as 1700. The name 'Stilton' has wisely been protected by The Stilton Cheese Makers Association and so can be only used to describe cheese made from a particular recipe in the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. There exist only seven creameries today that make stilton - we stock Cropwell Bishop as this is, in our opinion, an exceptional example of the cheese.
Blue cheeses in this country now, however, are so diverse and of such good quality that people are finally beginning to value the variety and realise that there is more than one Great British blue cheese.
As a point of interest, it is widely assumed that a heavy red wine or a port makes the best partner for a blue cheese as a strong flavour needs another strong flavour to balance it. We think that a mildly sweet white wine makes just as good a bed fellow though, as the contrast works just as well.