Yes, this is the cheese that revived claymation hero Wallace from his fainting spell in that Wallace & Gromit film—but the beloved British washed-rind dates way back before the release of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It's based on a very old recipe for a wheel made by Cistercian monks who once lived on the same land as modern-day Hunts Court Farm, where it's made today. Cheesemaker Charles Martell added a twist to the original recipe, however: He uses perry cider to wash the wheels, giving them a distinctive aroma.
The twist is based on the local terroir: The Gloucestershire region and its border areas are well-known for cultivating about 100 different types of perry pear, which are now used throughout the country. One such pear variety is the Stinking Bishop, named for a local 19th century farmer, Frederick Bishop, who was notorious in the area; it's said that he once sold a cow in the local market and proceeded to drink the entire proceeds on his way home. This riotously stinky cheese, like the pear, is his namesake.
To increase the moisture content and to encourage bacterial activity, salt is not added until the cheese is removed from its mold. Air bubbles form in the mold, giving the finished cheese an Emmental-like appearance when sliced. The distinctive aroma comes from the process with which the cheese is washed during its ripening; it is immersed in the perry every four weeks while it matures.
The cheese is available in both one-pound and four-pound wheels.
Stinking Bishop has an oozing, luscious paste ranging in color from white-yellow to beige, with a leatherlike, orangey rind. Though annual production of this cow's milk wheel is relatively limited, its notorious odor—which is said to be similar to unwashed socks and wet towels—keeps it popular in the United Kingdom and abroad. Like many washed rinds, however, the cheese's flavor is much more mild on the palate than the odor would imply, with notes of nuts, cream, and fruit.
A perry would make a natural pair for this cheese, however it might not be sturdy enough to stand up to the stink. Try a pear liqueur, a dessert cider, or a Trappist ale.
Photo Credit Eat More Cheese.