There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Melton Mowbray and the Vale of Belvoir, Stilton Cheese and Pork Pies: Part 2 The Tasting

If you have read the previous post, you will know we returned from Melton Mowbray and the Vale of Belvoir with a pork pie and slabs of cheese from four of the five local creameries - four of the six current Blue Stilton producers.

So we had to eat them.

23/06/2016

The pork pie provided lunch on Thursday - and Friday (it was a big pie).

Dickinson & Morris Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association gained Protected Geographical Indication status from the EU* in 2008. The association has ten members and we have one pie, so this was hardly a comparative tasting.

Traditionally pork pies were agricultural workers’ lunch. They could be taken to the fields and the meat stayed safe and clean inside its pastry shell which was (until the 18th century) discarded not eaten.



Dickinson & Morris Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
 
From the late 17th century Melton Mowbray was the centre of three major fox hunts, the Quorn, the Cottesmore and the Belvoir**, each hunting several times a week throughout the autumn and winter fuelled by industrial quantities of Pork Pies. As the season coincided with the annual pig slaughter fresh pork was used, so the meat in Melton Mowbray pies is grey, the colour of roast pork, not the pink of processed pork as in other pies. The other two distinguishing features of Melton Mowbray pies is that the meat is chopped not minced and the pies are baked free standing so have a slightly bowed appearance.



Dickinson & Morris Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
 
I have always liked a pork pie, it makes a fine lunch with salad and home-made chutney. I enjoyed the Dickinson & Morris pie and have eaten many before – they are widely available. It was good, but would I drive all the way to Melton Mowbray if it was the only place to buy it? Probably not. Would I pick one up in my local supermarket as I passed? Yes, I would.

25/06/2016


Pork Pie, whether Melton Mowbray or not, is a peculiarly British delicacy. Fine cheese can be found all over Europe and beyond, and Stilton is up there with the finest.

Colston Bassett Blue Stilton
Stilton received its EU* Protected Designation of Origin (slightly different from the pie’s PGI) status in 1996, and all Blue Stiltons (about a million cheeses a year) are made the same way.



 
Clawson Blue Stilton
(The following is a précis of the description on the Stilton Cheesemakers Association website). Rennet and penicillium roqueforti (blue mould spores) are added to pasteurised cow’s milk. Once the curds have formed, they are allowed to drain overnight. The following morning, the curd is cut into blocks to allow further drainage before being milled and salted. It is placed in cylindrical moulds which are turned daily to allow natural drainage and ensure an even distribution of moisture. The cheese is not pressed so it develops a flaky open texture.
 
Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton
After 5 or 6 days, the cylinders are removed and the cheese is transferred to a temperature and humidity controlled store where it is turned regularly. At 5 weeks when the cheese is forming the traditional Stilton crust it is pierced with stainless steel needles allowing air to enter the body of the cheese and activate the penicillium roqueforti and create the blue veins.
 
Tuxford and Tebbutt Blue stilton
Saturday lunch was a Stilton tasting, but of course you cannot eat Stilton all on its on, you also need crackers, bread, butter and, of course, a glass (preferably two) of Tawny Port.

Saturday lunchtime Stilton tasting
 And the tasting…..

Remembering that the opinions are personal and apply only to our randomly bought samples, we thought the general standard was high and there was not much between them but although we disagreed about two of the cheeses we achieved a measure of consensus.

We both liked Colston Bassett the best. It looked the picture of a piece of Stilton and was creamy, smooth and utterly delicious. Perhaps a little stronger than the others, it had a marked and pleasing 'blue' flavour.
Colston Bishop Blue Stilton

Second we placed the Clawson. It did not look as good, the blue being so smeared in the cutting (was it cut with a knife rather than a wire?) that the photograph looks out of focus, though it is not, but cutting inside it looked fine. The texture was gloriously creamy, the flavour mild with a flick of 'blueness' at the finish.

Clawson Blue Stilton

We disagreed over the last two. I thought the Tuxford and Tebbutt had a sheen like a factory produced cheese. I did not like the pasty texture, could detect no flavour of blue and rated it the weakest.
Tuxford and Tebbutt Blue Stilton
 Lynne, on the other hand, found a flavour in the Cropwell Bishop that she did not like. I thought the blue was over-concentrated when it should be veined through the cheese but I liked its slight crumbliness and extra sharpness.
 
Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton
Overall we were surprised how mild they were. I am sure Stilton used to be a strong cheese, but this may be the effect of age on our palates - or maybe we have become habituated to strong flavours by our travels in the fareast and India (see much of the rest of this blog!). It was though an enjoyable experience and justified our trip to the borders of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
*To repeat the footnote from the previous post....
We are still in the EU, for now, but after the appalling events of Thursday our days appear numbered. A coalition of the aged and the stupid, led by the venial using a combination of petty nationalism, misinformation and occasionally open racism, produced probably the stupidest decision in modern democratic history, betraying their children, grandchildren and brighter siblings.
Do not think I am not bitter.
If America elects President Trump, they have him for four years. We have effectively elected President Trump in perpetuity.

** Despite the 2004 hunting ban, all three hunts still operate and claim they do so within the law. Quite how they do that is a mystery to me.

 

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