Thursday, December 29, 2005

Leicestershire food: Now the bad news

Just before Christmas I wrote about the victory of Melton Mowbray pork pie-makers in a court case. Now the other peak of Leicestershire cuisine is under threat. From the British government.

Today's Daily Telegraph reports that:
The centuries-old recipe that gives Stilton, the "king of English cheeses", its distinctive flavour is under threat from the Government's anti-salt campaigners.
It seems that the Food Standards Agency has proposed cutting the salt in blue cheese to under 1.9 per cent but Stilton typically needs around 2.5 per cent. Why is that? The Telegraph explains:
Nigel White, of the Stilton Cheese Makers' Association, said: "Salt plays a vital part in cheese making and has done for thousands of years.
"Although it may be feasible to reduce salt in some products, we are concerned that it could start affecting the taste and character of the cheese. With something like Stilton, which has a protected origin status, we don't think that's too clever." ...
[Stilton] is created from cow's milk from a restricted list of creameries in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, but gets its name from the Cambridgeshire town, 80 miles north of London on the A1 where it was traditionally sold to resting travellers.
Salt is added partly for taste, partly to drive out moisture and also to slow the development of bacteria.
Without salt, the curd "races away" and the resulting cheese is unpalatable and does not last well. ...
"Of all the blue cheeses, Stilton has consistently the lowest salt levels," said Mr White.
"The reason it is higher than cheddar is that if you don't get an even distribution of salt above a minimum level, you won't get the cheese to blue. And since blueing is the single most important characteristic of blue cheese, you risk shooting yourself in the foot."
You certainly don't want to shoot yourself in the foot with a blue cheese. But wouldn't it be easier for people who are worried about their salt intake to choose a different variety of cheese?

Tim Worstall and The Devil's Kitchen also have this story.

Incidentally, the place with the best claim to being the birthplace of Stilton is Quenby Hall in, of course, Leicestershire. And Stilton was in Huntingdonshire when it made the cheese famous.

1 comment:

Simon A Robson said...

This statement is completely untrue. Without doubt the birthplace of Stilton cheese is The Bell Inn, Stilton, Cambs. Without the entreprenneurial skills of Cooper Thornhill, then landlord of The Bell, the cheese would not have been sold and it would not have become famous as Stilton cheese, taking its name from the village. It would have remained a blue veined cheese from the Three Counties.