Ah, the winter holidays: the season for furiously hectic cheese-buying and -selling, boundless winter cheer, and—if you live in the United Kingdom—Stilton (pictured above). But all is not wonderful this time of year for the Englishman’s blue cheese as choice, as one member of parliament is calling foul.
John Mann, representing the English district of Bassetlaw, recently advocated for widening the parameters for cheeses to qualify as Stilton. Stilton has held Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status since 1996, which sets strict legal guidelines as to where and how the cheese is produced. But here’s the rub: in 1989, the Stilton Cheesemaker’s Association—consisting of all six traditional makers of the cheese—all agreed to make Stilton with pasteurized milk rather than raw milk, and the pasteurized milk requirement eventually became a part of the PDO guidelines.
Enter “Stichelton” (pictured adjacent): a cheese made in Mann’s district that follows the traditional recipe to the T, including using raw milk. But because of the PDO regulation for using pasteurized milk, it is illegal to call that cheese “Stilton.” (Fun fact: The name “Stichelton” comes from an alternate spelling of the town of Stilton—which gave the cheese its name but is also not allowed to use the name “Stilton”—as found in the Domesday Book of 1086.)
As the BBC reports, Mann exclaimed in the Commons to Farming Minister George Eustice that “the English Christmas could not exist without Stilton cheese and yet you are refusing to allow the name Stilton to be given to the only English cheese made in the traditional way.” Mr. Mann even urged a tasting of Stilton for the cabinet to show their taste buds the error of their ways: “Will you accept a full Stilton to give to the cabinet, perhaps provide the biscuits to go with it, in order that they can understand the price being paid by denying England its true traditional English cheese, and thereby rethink?”
Minister Eustice noted that Stichelton, in fact, “actually commands a premium over Stilton” and that “the reality is every single Stilton producer opposed such change,” so don’t expect anynew legislation soon. But for the sake of the country, and the cheese lovers, we hope this gets resolved to avoid a repeat of the 1760s Cheese Wars…