Friday, October 25, 2013

Stilton cheese

click photo to enlarge
The origins of Stilton cheese are hard to pin down. I remember being told that it got its name from the fact that in the 1700s it was taken from its various makers in Leicestershire to the Bell Inn, Stilton, where it was loaded onto waggons for delivery to London along the Great North Road. If that were true then "Where did Stilton cheese originate?" would be a great pub quiz question because the answer would not be "Stilton".

Today, due to the terms of the Protected Geographical Status (PGS) of Stilton Cheese that was granted in 1996, the cheese cannot be made in Stilton. This is because the village is in Cambridgeshire (formerly in Huntingdonshire) and the PGS applies to only Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Bedfordshire. In fact none is currently made in Bedfordshire, with manufacture only at three Leicestershire and two Nottinghamshire locations. The white and the blue Stilton that we buy usually comes from Long Clawson in Leicestershire. Blue Stilton is probably my favourite cheese. It's clearly an acquired taste and something I wouldn't have eaten in my youth, but advancing years have seen me gravitate to it before most other cheeses, even ahead of Wensleydale, a cheese that I also like a lot.

Today's photograph shows the Bell Inn at Stilton. A datestone on one of the gable ends shows that it was built in 1642. Alterations were made c.1700 and later in the eighteenth century. Part of the inn was converted into three houses in the nineteenth century. The building fell into disuse for part of the twentieth century but renovation in 1985 returned it to its original use. The building is made of Ketton limestone with some later brick and roofs made of Collyweston stone and nineteenth century pantiles.The carriage arch remains but, as often happens these days, it has been incorporated into the building with glazing.The inside arch has an inscription, painted black, that read, "London 74 Huntingdon 12 Buckden 14 Stamford 14 Miles". The splendid wrought ironwork on the main elevation has been restored and it proudly projects the inn's sign out from the building to where it can be clearly seen by all who pass by.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On