A quintessentially English cheese, Stilton is made exclusively in three counties: Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Stilton can be traced back to the early 18th Century, and has since been crowned the "King of English cheeses". The cheese has been referenced in many pieces of writing over the years, including by writer Daniel Defoe who referred to Stilton as being "English Parmesan" back in 1724.
For a cheese to be officially classed as being a Stilton, it has to meet the following criteria:
- it can only be made in the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire
- it must be made from locally-produced milk that is pasteurised before use
- it can only be made in a cylindrical shape
- it must be allowed to form its own crust/coat
- it must never be pressed
- it must have delicate blue veins radiating from the centre
As a young cheese, Stilton is smooth and creamy in texture, with a slightly acidic taste. As it matures, the flavour begins to mellow out and develops a smoother and more buttery texture. Sweet wines such as Port go well with Stilton, as do fruity chutneys such as mango. As it crumbles easily, Stilton also works well in salads and soups; Paul Foster pairs it with chicory in his wintry salad recipe.