The Cheese That Couldn’t Be Called Stilton
“Stichelton” is a bit of a mouthful (pronounced ‘stickle-ton’). With its excess of consonants and forgettable L, it’s a word just waiting to be compressed into something more manageable — say, Stilton. Indeed, Joe Schneider, owner of the singularly-focused Stichelton Dairy, wishes he could call his blue-veined, pungent cheese Stilton. He was forced to adopt the alternative ‘Stichelton cheese’ name because of a convoluted web of laws that impeded his cheese-making dreams for years.
Schneider set out in 2004 with one goal in mind: to make Stilton cheese according to the original, eighteenth century recipe. That method involves aging raw, unpasteurised milk for up to three months. Eight years earlier, however, Stilton had been granted Protected Designation of Origin by the EU.
This designation involves a strict list of qualifiers that producers have to follow if they want to call their product by the protected name. In Stilton’s case, one of these is to use pasteurised milk, more to satisfy the UK government’s suspicion of raw milk than to improve the cheese in any way. Schneider petitioned to use the name anyway, but to no avail; by law, his product couldn’t be called Stilton.
Schneider stood by his dedication to raw milk, which he claims is “a living thing” whose vibrancy and variety is killed by pasteurisation. He chose to call his cheese “Stichelton” after an ancient name for the Cambridgeshire town of Stilton, and has impressive success selling the cheese to retailers and restaurants around the world. You can find Stichelton at shops around the UK, including Neal’s Yard Dairy.