Randolph's StoryThe story of my involvement with Stichelton goes back a long way.
I have made and sold cheese since 1979, and I have spent much of my time seeking out the most original producers of the traditional British cheese types to sell in my shop Neal’s Yard Dairy. At the time I started, only a handful of farmhouse makers of Cheddar, Cheshire, Lancashire and Caerphilly cheese remained and the general feeling was that they would not last much longer because cheese production belonged in the factory. One of the most significant characteristics of our traditional farmhouse cheeses was that the milk used had not been subjected to pasteurisation and as a consequence the cheeses had a unique and individual flavour. These cheeses were exactly the sort of thing that my customers in London were looking for.
When I was seeking out the Stilton that I wanted to sell in the shop I visited many and tasted cheese from all the ten dairies still making back then. There were no farms left making Stilton, the last was before the Second World War, but the only one still using raw milk was Colston Bassett and District Dairy and it was their cheese that was received with the most enthusiasm in my shop. The raw milk Colston Bassett Stiltons had delicacy and length of flavour and sublime creaminess quite unlike any other cheese.
When Colston Bassett made the decision in the early nineties to pasteurise the milk for cheesemaking it was a huge blow but nonetheless their cheeses continued to be amongst the very best. The gentleness used in the making still produced lovely cheese but the extra dimension of flavour and texture was gone. I have spent the twenty or so years since then trying to persuade Colston Bassett to use raw milk once again but to no avail. I told them that if they weren’t going to do it then I would.