Cheese Making Once Again!

As I mentioned in my previous post I have been away from cheese making for a considerable length of time; about 10 months.

In what is beginning to become an annual tradition (does 2 times make a tradition?) my friend Ian over at Much To Do About Cheese asked if I wanted to get together over the Christmas break to make cheese again. Last year we made Taleggio. This year we decided to make a blue cheese. Ian has recently discovered a, shall we call it love of good blue cheese…I suspect love may be too strong of a word though…how about infatuation? Only time will tell if this is true love or a fleeting infatuation. For me it is true love, I have loved the piquant flavours of blue cheese since I was about 13 or 14, starting with blue cheese dressing on iceberg lettuce; but I digress. Back to the make!

I was traveling with my daughter and her alpine ski team when Ian had available cheese time so Ian made his “Stiltonesque” while I was away and then volunteered to come over and help me with my “Stilton Style” cheese when I returned.


It was a Powder Day at Silver Star but at -20 degC and wind chill of about -35 degC it was chilly!!

This is the story of Sailor Rick and his magical wheel of Stilton. I will call it Stilton even though Stilton is an EU protected cheese. I’m sure the EU has more important things to worry about than one small wheel of cheese produced for home consumption.

Sailor Rick’s Condensed History of Stilton

I am a history buff, as is my whole family so pardon the short history lesson on the making of Stilton cheese; I hope you find it somewhat interesting.

In AD 45 the Romans established a military camp seventy miles north of Londinium first called Sticitone and then later Stilton. It is located in the east midlands of England. By AD 65 Stilton was a trading centre producing a soft cream cheese for local consumption; pressed cheese was exported as far as Rome. A ceramic Roman cheese mold was found near Stilton in 2006. The cheese was coagulated using nettles for rennet and was then wrapped in nettles for about 2 weeks until ready for consumption; a much different cream cheese than what we in North America consider as cream cheese.

By AD 585 the Romans had been gone for several hundred years, replaced by the Anglo-Saxons and later the Danes but a cream cheese was still produced from ewes milk. The climate in the region was hostile so the Danes introduced cattle to the area known as Red Lincolns; they were noted for both their size and heartiness. The milk was used to make cream cheese and pressed cheese.

In 1066 William I conquered England and it is believed that he required a blue-veined cheese to be produced as lastage (a type of rent paid by the local market). This lastage in one form or another was in place for over 300 years.

In 1430 Henry VI passed a law that less than a third of the weight of the cheese could be whey so all cheeses at this point were pressed to some degree. The producer could only consume unpressed cheese. By 1560 there was a considerable demand for unpressed cream cheese.

Throughout the 1600’s there are records of probated wills listing all types of cheese making equipment but not presses so it is suspected the immediate area had some form of exemption from the whey laws. The first confirmed forerunner of ‘Stilton’ style cheese produced was made in a dairy run by Elizabeth Scarborough at Quenby Hall; it was a lightly pressed cheese, coloured orange and as it aged developed blue veins.

1721 is the first documented proof of a cheese called Stilton Cheese but would have been a pressed cheese due to the laws regarding whey content at the time; however a soft blue veined cream cheese was available to a select few in Westminster and by 1734 cream cheese was allowed to be sold to the public. By 1742 Frances Pawlett (the mother of Stilton cheese) was producing ‘A Royal Cheese’. Frances was the first to force knitting needles into the sides of the cheeses to speed up development of the blue mould. Frances is considered the originator of modern Stilton cheese.

The town of Stilton had been on the stagecoach line and with the development of the railroad in 1845 which did not pass through Stilton, the town declined and the sale of Stilton had moved closer to the rail lines. The first Stilton cheese fair was held in a town called Melton Mowbray in September 1883. 12,672 cheeses were on hand. Cheese fairs were then held 3 times per year. The cheese buyers would walk from stall to stall sampling the cheeses and negotiating the price. All of the cheese would be sold before noon and then loaded into rail cars for distribution across England. Other markets were also held but this was the largest.

By 1940 the small farm dairies had been consolidated so there were 16 Stilton producing dairies but still numerous farmers producing Stilton casually and especially for Christmas. Stilton production was banned in 1940 by the War Office as being a luxury item and unclean. Dairies were only allowed to make a type of Cheddar after that point. On a side note annatto the dye used for orange coloured cheddar and Leicestershire was also banned as it was produced in Brazil and was considered an unwarranted import.

By 1947 Stilton cheese dairies were reopening. The dairies all installed pasteurisers to heat the milk to kill any bacteria present. The last factory dairy (Colston Bassett) to produce Stilton using unpasteurized milk switched over in 1989.

In 2007 Joe Schneider began producing Stichelton cheese using a farmhouse cheese recipe and unpasteurized milk but because of EU rules it cannot be called Stilton.

[Gleaned from the pages of “Stilton Cheese a history” by Trevor Hickman] which was a gift from my greatest cheese nibbling fan (my Sailor Girl) last Christmas.


The Stilton Make

After reviewing my multiple cheese making tomes and conferring with my Cheese Yoda I decided to follow the basic recipe found in “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking” by Gianaclis Caldwell. Ian the Cheese Yoda had followed this recipe during his make the week before as well.

In her book Gianaclis recommends using the following cultures:


Farmhouse cultures combine mesophilic and thermophilic strains to make up a wide flavor and texture range with a single product. Choozit MA 4000 from Danisco has been one of the most popular farmhouse blends on the market for many years: It is an all-around great starter for anything from buttermilk to soft, semi-soft, or semi-hard cheeses; Continental or New World styles. It is reliable and predictable. Its balanced flavor makes it an easy base culture to use with add-on adjuncts that can instantly turn it into a specialty culture.  

Restrained citrate fermentation produces some gas for a slightly open texture with random small eyes (holes). Moderate Diacetyl production makes just enough butter notes to satisfy a Brie …but not to a level of overwhelming a Cheddar. The thermophilic component is a great way to stabilize bloomy cheese, giving it longer shelf life and less ammonia buildup and rendering it less runny or gooey.  MA4000 is a classic choice for Tomme, Jack, and hundreds of other types of cheeses from any type of milk. It is especially beneficial for those who make several types of cheeses and would like to have a “go-to” culture blend for multiple types.


As an example of LM: Danicso Choozit LM57 is a single strain adjunct culture of Leuconostoc mesenteroides ssp cremoris; a defined heterofermentative mesophilic with fast citrate fermentation and high gas production. It is especially beneficial in soft or moist blue cheeses where the eyes make a more stable air supplier to the blue than a needle piercing, The crevices created by this culture contributes to vein creation well beyond the needle piercing. LM57 us also fun and beneficial in cheeses such as Havarti and can create fluffier texture and small eyes and notes of butter in other cheeses.

P. Roqueforti

Penicillium Roqueforti a blue-green mould.

In the end I decided to use:


Choozit KAZU from Danisco is a specialty farmhouse starter blend, formulated for traditional Dutch, Alpine, and Scandinavian cheeses such as Gouda, Edam and Havarti, but can be used in many other soft and semi-soft varieties for unique flavor. It has mesophilic properties much like those of MM100 or MA4000 with some gas production and open texture, but its thermophilic components create rich sweet, nutty and savory and milky notes that are the hallmarks of Dutch, Danish and Swiss varieties. Use it to replace other farmhouse blends such as Danisco Choozit MA 4000 and taste the difference!


CHR Hansen Flora Danica (Mesophilic Aromatic Starter Blend)

P. Roqueforti

I borrowed Ian’s culture as I didn’t have any. PS is an all-around great useful blue mold strain of Penicillium Roqueforti. It features medium-fast growth speed, mild blue taste and a nice blue-green color. It retains a good amount of moisture and creaminess but not too much.

NOTE: Culture descriptors were taken from Artisan Geek.

I chose these specific cultures for a number of reasons including the opportunity to compare my cheese make with Ian’s so I used KAZU instead of MA4000 (which he used). I also used Flora Danica for my LM to use a different culture than Ian used. In the future I may use a stronger flavoured P. Roqueforti as I like a bold Stilton.

The original recipe calls for 8 litres of whole milk. Other recipes call for the addition of as much as 475 ml of cream as well. In the end I went with my ‘home maid’ milk which was composed of 8 litres of skim milk and 1 litre of 36% cream which puts me somewhere in the middle and a bit larger volume than the original recipe.

You may ask why ‘home maid’ milk; the reason is simple. Virtually all whole cows milk available (except for some very expensive brands) has been homogenized. Homogenization is a process that breaks down the fat in the milk/cream so that it stays suspended throughout the milk. Cows milk, fresh from the udder will eventually collect the cream on the top. ‘Home Maid’ milk attempts to recreate unhomogenized whole milk so the milk has the same characteristics found in farm fresh milk. I have used this technique numerous times and I think the end product cheese turns out better.

This recipe adds the cultures a bit early in the game and then ripens for an extended period.


This is a new sight for me, the blue flecks in the milk from the p. roqueforti!

For this make I also used goat lipase (that is what I have) and calf rennet.

Artisan Geek describes the use of lipase as:

Lipases are enzymes which enable lipolysis –the breakdown of fats into shorter chain, free fatty acids, capable of binding with other elements to form flavor and aroma compounds. Lipolysis is a crucial in all cheese making. It can be powered by the natural presence of lipase in raw milk or rennet, or by the activity of many cultures. In many cases however lipase is added to increase or accelerate this activity, to enhance the flavor and aroma, and to render a sharp or piquant cheese. It is a time-honored staple in many traditional cheeses.

Once the coagulation is complete in about an hour you check for clean break which I have a very nice one here:


The curd is cut in rather large columns (about 2-3 cm) and unlike other cheese makes, horizontal cuts are not made.

 Sorry I missed a photo of this step! 

The curd is then rested for 10 minutes before being scoped gently into a cheesecloth lined colander. The cheesecloth is then gathered and tied with a Stilton Knot. The bundles are placed back in the vat to rest and the knots are tighetened in about an hour.


After 2 hours remove the bundles and drain the vat. Remove the curd from each bundle and place back into the vat to keep them warm. Turn the bundles every hour until the pH drops below 5.


Notice How Soft The Curd Is Still

The curd should now be quite firm. Mill the curd by hand breaking it into irregular shapes about the size of a man’s thumb. Sprinkle with salt and then place in the hoop/mold.








At The 12 Hour flip, Nice Pattern From The Draining Mat

Wrap Up

I had planned on using my Brie mold but I didn’t have enough curd to get the shape of cheese I wanted. I ended up using a Camembert Hoop which was the perfect size for amount of curd I had. The recipe calls for using open ended hoops so that was why I was using these.

I am finding that my vat doesn’t hold enough milk to make the size or quantity of cheese I’d like to produce. For things like cheddar or Stilton to name a couple I think the cheese ages better in a larger format. I think I will be looking at a system to double my milk volumes. I will keep you posted.

This was a fun cheese to work on. I appreciate Ian making the long cross-city drive to my place to help with the make. I have to admit I felt a bit rusty through the first few steps but it all came back like riding a bicycle.

This cheese will require aging for at least 5 weeks to 4 months. I will try and post updates as I work on this cheese in the future.

I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

Happy New Year!!!

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