A deliciously rich and herby blue Stilton cheese.
Robin Skailes, who is based in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir at Cropwell Bishop in Nottingham, is the third-generation maker of one of the finest blue cheeses in the world - Stilton. We caught up with Robin to learn more about the story behind Cropwell Bishop Stilton. Read on to find out more…
How did you get into cheese making?
My family has been making and selling cheese for more than 160 years, so you could say cheesemaking is in my blood! My great, great, uncle first set up a company that supplied cheese way back in 1847. We began making cheese in the 1920s, and both my grandfather and father worked in the family company. I’ve always had a keen interest in the cheesemaking side of things, and I was delighted to join Cropwell Bishop in 2006. It wasn’t too long after that, that I started working on creating our soft blue cheese, Beauvale.
Why did you choose to make blue cheese as opposed to other types of cheese?
Our family first started making Stilton in 1941 and were immediately drawn to its history and heritage – as well as its taste! As the ‘The King of English Cheeses’ my family was keen to preserve this historic cheese for future generations to enjoy. We still live by this ethos and work hard to create cheese that’s befitting of its PDO status, and we follow traditional recipes and production methods handed down through generations.
Describe a typical day at Cropwell Bishop dairy.
It’s always busy! We start early, with fresh milk arriving at the creamery from the Peak District family farms that supply us. The milk is pasteurised and then we add rennet and starter cultures to the milk, along with the blue mould spores that give Stilton its distinctive flavour.
We are one of the few Stilton dairies that still using traditional cheese-making methods, including hand ladling the curds and whey, hand milling the cheese - where we break the curd into small pieces. And ‘rubbing up’, which is where we smooth the edges of the cheese with a knife, sealing it to stop the growth of blue mould until later in the process. We also hand turn our cheese every day for the 5 weeks whilst it matures.
A typical day will also involve cheese tasting – my favourite part! At between eight- and nine-week-old, we individually grade each Stilton. Once graded, our Cropwell Bishop Stilton is hand wrapped ready for our customers. We also host lots of customer and VIP visits, and really enjoy showing people around out creamery.
How would you describe your Stilton to someone who had never tried it before?
Our Stilton has a creamy soft richness which is followed by an exquisite spicy, deep blue flavour. It’s perfectly balanced and a flavour that’s hard to beat!
How do you choose to enjoy your Stilton?
Personally, I love to drink either Sauternes- a sweet French wine - or champagne with our Blue Stilton. The champagne bubbles compliment the cheese so well, and it really is a fantastic combination. I think the best way to enjoy our cheese is simply with fresh artisan bread, honey and walnuts – simple, but so delicious.