On The Blue Road To Stilton – Last Cheese Of 2014…Part 1

I have toyed with lactic blues over the past few months with varied success, but as 2014 drew to a close it was time to buckle down and make a proper blue.  With so many choices, I thought the classics don’t go out of style and I have had requests for a certain English Blue for a while; so a Stiltonesque cheese it was to be.

Stilton, both Blue and White versions, have PDO status by the EU and can only be made in three counties (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire) in England, using pasteurized milk, to be considered Stilton.  A Raw Milk version of Stilton, co-created by Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy and American Joe Schneider, is called Stichelton because of the conditions of the Stilton PDO.

Would a Stilton by any other name smell as funkilishous?  Would it taste as great?  It was time to fire up the cheese vat and find out.

Cultures and mould added for Stilton Style cheese

With the cultures and P. Roqueforti added the Stilonesque was under way!

This time I was using some great milk, Vital Greens Non-Homogenized 3.5% Milk, so I wanted to make sure I did not waste it. So for this make I decided to use a tried and tested formula, Gianaclis Caldwell‘s version “Milled Curd Stilton-Style Blue Cheese” from Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking. I went with her version than others that I have primarily because it was an eight litre recipe, and I really like her book.  It was interesting to see that the cultures were added at a lower temperature than I was used to, and ripening in bundles was interesting, but I will get to that shortly.

Curd set

After reaching 32 degrees Celsius, the CaCl2 was added and then the rennet. You can see the butterfat on the surface of the milk along with the start of the coagulation.

I let the rennet do its thing for 75 min, 15 minutes longer than it should have taken, but I was not happy with the way the curd set when I check for a clean break at 60 minutes.

Curd is cut

After I was happy with the “Break” I cut the curd and then let it rest for 10 minutes.

The next part of the make was ripening in bundles.  This was a new concept for me, from what I could gather from my research was that the curd is delicate but still needs the pH to drop (or acidity to increase) and gently firm up at the same time.  The curd is gently ladled into cheesecloth and then the cheesecloth is tied into bundles using the “Stilton Knot” and then they are placed back into the vat and allowed to ripen further as the whey drains from the bundles.

curd in cheesecloth

You can see how nice and soft the curd was. It was quite delicate, I could now see the need for the bundles

Cheese Bundles

I was surprised at the curd yield. I ended up with two bundles.

Ripening Bundles

I don’t know if you can tell, but you wrap the knot so that it can be tightened easily. Each wrap goes under the last.

bundles in the vat

The bundles were then put back in the vat and allowed to drain. I kept the temperature of the vat as close to 32 degrees celsius as possible.

In various versions, the bundles are hung or placed on a board and the whey is allowed to drain away from the curd.  This one said not to drain the whey from the vat, I have to admit I was skeptical about this, but I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible.

after an hour

After an hour I was surprised at how much whey came out of the bundles

probing the temperature

I had the probe from the thermometer wedged between the bundles to make sure that the temperature was constant

Knots, Knots, Stilton Knot.

I had to tighten the knots ever so often, this helped to firm up the curd and expel more whey.

After 2 hours of ripening and draining the curd in the bundles had become quite firm and it was time to take them out and heat the “Slabs” to increase the acidity.

Bundle #2

The smaller of the two bundles was the firmer

Bundle 1

The larger bundle was not as firm as the smaller one, but it was just as ready.

I inclined the insert in my vat and kept the heat on, the object was to heat the slabs and flip them every hour until they reached a specific pH.  Sounds like cheddaring process to me, without the cutting or stacking.

Heating the slabs

The curd slabs needed to be kept at 32 degrees celsius so I decided to put the probe in the curd.

Curd flipping.

After and hour I flipped the curd and kept on heating.

It only took 2 hours to reach the pH I was looking for.  I don’t have a pH meter so I have to interpret the pH strips based on the colour variations.  It is like guessing but I have had enough practice with Cheddars and Caerphilly to be somewhat accurate.  Now it was time to mill and salt the curd than place them in a mould to drain.

Milled Curds

I milled the curd and added the salt by hand.

Stilton is not pressed in the traditional sense, it uses the weight of the curd to press the curd.  I don’t own a proper Stilton Mould, but I do own a Camembert hoop so I pressed it into service.

Packed into the hoop

I packed the curds into the hoop.

Filled up

I used my hand to press the curds down a bit and left them to drain.

The curds were flipped after 30 minutes, then again after 4 hours, then 12 hours, which would be at 10 AM the next day.  After that you flip the cheese every day for 3-5 days while keeping it at 18-20 degrees celsius (room temperature).

Together for curd.

This is a picture of the cheese then next day. See how well the curd has knitted together.

Curd knitting.

At the start of day 3, you can see how the curd has knitted together, but there are still gaps in the rind.

I am happy with the way there are some gaps, I want the blue mould to take root in these nooks and crannies.  Eventually I will smooth the rind in a process called “Rubbing Up”, where you use a knife to smooth the surface.  I hope to shoot some video of this to share, if not I will have some pictures.

As this is the last day of 2014, I wanted to take the time to thank everyone that has visited Much To Do About Cheese over the past year.  I am constantly surprised at the amount of traffic that this site gets, thank you I am honoured.

All the best in 2015 – Lets make it a year of Cheese!Ian Logo

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