Stilton - Colston Bassett
Located in the Vale of Belvoir in Nottinghamshire, Colston Bassett and District Dairy was founded in 1913, largely in response to a growing demand for the production of consistent and well-made cheese in a purpose built dairy. Although cheesemaking had a long history in the area prior to this, for centuries it had taken place as a seasonal occupation for farmers' wives between April and September, using milk that was surplus to the fluid milk market.
In 1912, the Colston Bassett vilalge doctor, Dr William Windley, saw a way of producing quality cheese with the support of local farmers. During his rounds, he encouraged local farmers and patients to raise the capital needed to build a dairy and subscribe for shares. A total of forty people raised £1,000.00. With this, half an acre of land was purchased from the squire, Mr Knowles, and the Colston Bassett and District Dairy was built.
At the outset, there were about sixteen farmer members supplying milk to the dairy and, due to war-time restrictions, the first cheese to be produced was a hard-pressed cheddar style cheese since Stilton was thought to be too much of a luxury to be produced during the war years.
In 1920 the dairy started to make Stilton and, except for once again stopping during WWII to go back to the Cheddar-style cheese, by the 1950s, Stilton was produced throughout the year.
Colston Bassett is one of the smallest Stilton dairies in the UK. Today, milk is sourced from four different farms, each located within 1.5 miles of the dairy, that have been supplying it since the 1920s. In most cases the farms are still operated by the original families. During that time, there have only been five Dairy Managers at Colston Bassett. Billy Kevan has been at the dairy since 1999 and is the current cheesemaker who oversees production.
Colston Bassett Stilton is made in a more traditional way than most other Stiltons as the curd is still hand-ladled before draining, which preserves its structure, resulting in a luscious, creamy texture when the cheeses are mature. Also, the rind of each wheel is sealed or "rubbed up" by hand.
Colston Bassett Stilton has a velvety, close texture with a pale, ivory paste, grading to amber at the edges and shot throughout with parsleyed greenish-blue veins.
The rind is wrinkly, slightly sticky and orange-brown in color dotted with patches of white mold. Flavors are rich and lactic with a wonderful balance of blue mold, earth and butter. When young, wheels tend to have a slightly tangy edge but with age, this dissipates.