In Conversation with the Academy of Cheese – Diana Alcock, Hartington Stilton

Charlie is talking to Diana Alcock, Hartington Stilton the smallest of the great Stilton makers. We will be talking PDOs – she makes stilton and Dovedale – being the only lady stilton maker, and coping with covid. Cheese will be Hartington Blue Stilton, Dovedale Blue and Peakland White.

Streamed live on Mar 16, 2021


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Stilton making with Hartington Stilton

Right, hello everybody. It is Tuesday night it’s cheese night and we are talking PDO cheeses, one of the rarer PDO cheeses is dovedale and of course stilton one of the very best and well-known and globally recognized pdo cheeses and for that reason we have got Robert and Diana from Hartington.

Welcome to Tuesday night guys so how are you preparing we’re good we’re good thank you yeah getting busy yeah it’s beginning to open up again are you looking at uh you know feeling that life will return to normal like it will be a new normal it will be different and things never ever go back to how they were doing that when you’ve had such a you know shock to the system but we we’ve we’ve changed we’ve adapted and you know we’ll be different as well yeah no i think that’s going to be for everyone so um let’s let’s let’s leave kobe for a side for a second and let’s give us a quick tour of the cheeses you do so that everybody is on the same cheese board uh to to use cut face sir so give us the tour you’re most famous for your stilton which i’m very disappointed you haven’t sent me any of we thought we’d play a game with you and sandy shropshire is dead you have you have but stilton is your number one seller is that right it is yes now i’ve got a rather extraordinary camera which makes bizarrely my cheese disappear i don’t know if you can see that so i need you to hold your cheese up and show the show the people who are watching and miraculously that’s this piece of shropshire which just just unpacked itself oh isn’t that amazing it’s almost blue pizza here except it’s blue chocolate get down chef so so um what is your best selling cheese what is what are your what is your range so we make blue stilton um we also make um a peakland blue which is similar to stilton um it’s like slightly aged uh more so it’s got more of a punch that’s the pinkland white so that’s white which is um quite a um citrusy salty cheese more suited to salads um and uh about it doesn’t it yeah so it is quite good for salads and it you know it’s good for the um melting on toast or oat cakes or anything like that but yeah it’s it’s quite a salty citrusy fresh cheese yeah it just smelled of clean dairy it has that instant um clean curd kind of kind of thing yeah it it actually blends particularly well and we’ve we’ve we’ve created a range of sort of blended uh what we call pebbles vodka with orange yes i was going to do that one last i figured let’s start with the vodkas just just as i went traditional and modern as well [Music] pickle and white cheese with chili so washington is um so pickland is is made the same way stilton how does it vary from stilton um so it’s still a slow acidifier as in um it citifies over overnight but it’s not got any of the blue molding it’s not matured as a blue cheese would be it’s quite a fresh young cheese so it’s ready to go in a couple of weeks what with the blue in it no the white the the crumbly one that’s the uh salty yeah that’s that’s ready in a couple of weeks so so when you mature it with the blue you’re needling it at two or three weeks i’m assuming and if if it’s a blue cheese it’s got got the blue mold in and it’s um pierced um at five and six weeks old so we so we face it twice um it’s sealed the edges are sealed as as you would do with a stilton so that in effect stops any of the air getting in to start the mold growth and then we control the mold when we want it to grow by piercing it at five weeks and when and when is it ready sort of the sort of the nine week around about 10 11 weeks for a peakling blue um our stilton is ready eight to nine weeks and the shropshire is ready sort of nine weeks as well okay it’s not like it not like a cheddar that’s sat on the shelves for you know 12 months no no so you’ve got four blue cheeses you’ve got pickling blue you’ve got a shropshire blue you’ve got a stilton and you’ve got the dovedale which is a completely different make mm-hmm but the the what the way diana makes the the silt and the shropshire they make they’re probably slightly creamier than some of the other stilt makers we obviously we follow the strict pdr rules but we try to differentiate by making them slightly smoother slightly creamier slightly buttery and not quite as strong i’m getting it now it’s nice it’s got you press it against the top of your pallet and it’s got a um it’s very elastic it elastic i don’t know if that’s the right word but it’s got a smooth um pulp to it that is very very almost on the top it melts in your mouth almost it’s melting right now mm-hmm yeah excellent you know we we’re going to try to be different to be to be noticed and you know um it’s pointless i was trying to make a really strong silt uh so we’re making something that may appeal to younger people so in stilton land you’ve got the long clawsons and the tuxens and tibbetts who are the big boys yeah and then you’ve got your cropwells and your colstons who are and then you’ve got you guys i mean is that is that a fair approximation i’d say that’s very fair yeah yeah yeah so how many stiltons would you be making a day or a week so we make round about 80 a day so we’re on a very small scale compared to anybody else and the we can only manufacture four days a week okay the um space and all our process is done in one vat so there’s very little movement of any curd which is good for stilton you know you don’t want to be bashing it around or anything so that that limits us and how as to how much we can make and space we don’t have the space so so you have one big square that round there yeah it’s a square but square that and you drain the curd into the vat and let the the curd set there because someone like colston bassett would lay it out on a table in a different hat yes yep and and as it’s sitting there you’re letting it so how long do you delighted to sit the stilton acidify for so it it’s overnight so um it’s left to drain overnight uh which is approximately about 12 hours from from finishing one pro one part of the process until the following morning and then we check the acidity to make sure that it’s it’s ready and then it’s um cut and allowed to drain a little bit more um when and when it’s ready then it’s salted um it’s salted um over four occasions to try and get even distribution then it’s put through a mill um which sort of creates walnut-sized pieces put into the hoops uh there’s no pressure applied because part of the pdo is that you can’t um apply any pressing at all so it’s allowed to settle under its own weight um i mean the stilton hoops are a specific size to to allow you to you know fill them up so you get so you get the perfect size and then it’s put into a temperature and humid humidity controlled environment and turned on a daily basis to ensure even distribution of the moisture i’m just going to sort of fill in just in case i’m watching is not familiar with what a pdo is product of designated origin european structure for allowing a community to sort of own a owner a brand or a style rather than an individual or a business um and it’s each pdo comes with its own set of rules and to make the pdo the cheezio could be a cheese could be a drink all sorts of pdfs you have to abide by the rules and one of those rules is how it’s made or assembled but also where the milk can come from and and that for stilton is derbyshire leicestershire nottinghamshire yes yeah but you’re the only derbyshire one we are the only derbyshire stilton maker and does that make it taste any different um our grass tastes far better than the grass from dark matter limestone plateaus are a synonymous sport for grazing dairy calves so so do you go big serious way do you think you can taste the difference in the milk at certain times of the year yes you can start to grass in the spring and then the cheese will taste slightly differently to when this time of year when the cows are on a winter diet so if you’ve got a three-month cheese you would say you get your peak to peak derbyshire distinctiveness in sort of june or july then yes well there you go that’s it for everyone right we must all go in through the party in derbyshire that’s what we’re gonna do so that’s so that’s your stilton cheese um which you know you’ve got your your variation on on what is if i can be honest a sort of well-trod path one of the most established cheeses in the country um but let’s go to the other end of the spectrum with with the dovedale so people might may not know that dovedell is a pdo cheese a protected designated orange and cheese um but it’s had a bit of a check in history do you want to sort of fill me in so dovedell was made um it was developed in the 80s by a team of cheese makers that were based at the dove dairy in hartington and um it was developed as a continental style softer blue cheese which was sort of new to the british market i suppose and it was made in um hartington from that time until the dairy closed in 2009 when it was ceased to be made um and we had every intention of sort of resurrecting it um and we started to produce it again in 2016 in very small quantities um we only make it in hundred liter batches which gives us round about five cheese so in a day we will make we’ll be able to make sort of eight batches so we can only make 40 of the cheese a day and um they’re little over two kilos so it is it is on a small scale um but because it’s a soft cheese it’s far more time critical um with the acidity which is why we can only make it in such small batches so so let’s look at the history of dublin so 2000 when when you say it was it was first may 2000 it was made in the 80s 80s that’s right so it’s actually only 40 years old yes ask a sort of question how is it allowed to have a pdo if it’s only 40 years old um the pda was applied for by darian hartington and it was very much to do with the area that the milk came from so within at the time it was within 12 miles of dovedale and very much based on the experience of blue cheese makers um one from the dairy of which we have some of those cheese makers now still so we’ve got so we’ve got years and years of knowledge of the dovetail make really mm-hmm because it is it is quite different in character to well almost anything else in in the uk let alone in in derbyshire so you’ve got a um a rind that i mean a paste that’s about that thick not the tall stilton cheeses and you are encouraging an outer rind maturing through what looks to me like penicillin rock 40 or something like that yes yes yeah so you’re deliberately encouraging that outside to get a bit of creaminess just kicking off under the skin and i’m imagining that this look feels to me like sort of mid-ripeness one but i imagine that goes quite yellow quite creamy um quite buttery i’m gonna show you one that’s an older one that’s more mature oh yeah you see there it is we’re going with that deep dark sort of um um bottom of the ocean blue um with creamy yellow in between but it still got the the the rind on yeah yeah has that one lost does that lose quite a lot of moisture during the maturation it it does yes but um because it’s nothing like the stilton would do okay because it’s a softer cheese it still still retains quite quite a lot of moisture um right it’s got a real sense of there’s a real difference between that softer cheese just under the rind and the slightly firmer cheese towards the center yes but as it ages it breaks down the curd breaks down even more and as the blue mold develops it breaks down the curd even more so the cheese the cheeses can be ready to go in sort of four weeks a totally different cheese at eight weeks and that that’s customer specific on what what people want really um we tend to find that now people prefer a younger cheese that isn’t hasn’t got that that blue punch to it and but the dovedale as it as it matures gets quite a strong a strong blue flavour yeah at the end of its life as the one robert roberts just shown you oh i’d love to do a tasting of sort of two or three ages of it feels like it’s going to transition quite significantly in those three to four weeks kind of thing and and so i mean it is an interesting question so what we’re protecting through that pdo is not so much the history of a cheese but a history of cheese making that sort of heritage of those styles yes it is so interesting and you the only people making dovetail at the moment it is made um another another place and that’s actually over the border in staffordshire oh staffordshire sounds evil but that’s it is it so because it’s not widely available i don’t often see it at all no no that’s so interesting so you’ve got these two classics um then you’ve obviously jumped on the stilton bandwagon of thinking um shropshire blue is the answer um it’s a it’s a lovely companion to stilton sort of if you don’t like stilton you’ll like shropshire blue kind of thing so what so why did you take this on is this something that um uh just was requested by customers or do you like it yourself i imagine it’s um again we because because we’re small um it’s it fits for us to do sort of relative small sort of production runs and some of the biggest some of the bigger dairy creameries wouldn’t want to do small small production cheeses so it does fit fit with our sort of ethos really to to have more smaller customers with specific you know demands really and which is one of those that um that does sort of fit not a lot of people make shropshire blue so that’s that’s helped us gain sort of market share and allowed us to get all the cheeses into those same customers as well is it made exactly the same way as your stilton with leonato or do you have any variations on it and there’s there’s a slight variation with the ingredients but essentially the makers what slight variation i i i i can’t i can’t give away my secrets yeah i know it’s just between us three no one ever watches this is it is the milk secretly from staffordshire is that’s what it’s about you see and you don’t want to admit it now it’s you know we wouldn’t want to give our secrets away would we really okay the um uh the texture of the shropshire blue is quite distinct to other cheeses it’s got much more of us um it doesn’t have any crumbly well not the piece i have anywhere has any crumbliness to it’s a completely um uh soft paste except it’s not that soft it’s a firm paste it’s probably a better way of putting it yeah it’s quite buttery and very very creamy but you still got that blue blue cheese flavor flavor to it yeah funny when we were working with the academy or i was working with the academy trying to find a flavor for blue cheese we couldn’t come up with one it’s just it’s blue it tastes of that kind of spicy musty um uh sort of punchiness as you described it and it’s difficult to find a sort of way of breaking it out so that’s your um your range of blues now it’s it’s but you then go on to have your own brand which is the peatland which is which is the other end of the spectrum rather than part of a community of cheeses that has a wider num makers across the country you’ve had something that’s wholly your own yeah i mean the reason bear in mind the the the the creamery was sort of created built into in some old barns and buildings on the farm in 2011 salted milk cheese in october 2012 well you’ll understand that we haven’t got a pdo to make blue stilton or white silten you have to go through a process which takes quite a lot of time to to get accredited by the stiltmakers association um it took us two years two years to get the accreditation so you have to have something to sell and peter white were with two cheeses that um you know that we we we created ourselves and made so we’d actually got some some income um and you’ve continued with them so obviously they’ve been successful for you particularly locally um with the with the tourism around hartington and people want a local a local cheese and so the people in blue and people work really well for that so this is like chatsworth farm shop you know the historic association with chatsworth lots of all the sort of local deli shops um you know people tourists they’re looking for something local something to you know some of the history and some of the you know some nice food as well so um it was an easy win for us to begin with really well that’s essential i mean we see that in a number of cheese makers is that the the local community um what maybe not so much the local community the people who come into the locality really want to taste the cheese of that area and sort of pick up a sort of local cuisine vibe thing yeah and that’s it’s a it’s it’s it’s a good now you’ve got um the pink and blue and the pink and white and the pink one cracked black pepper and the greek and hottie and the piglet and and and this the vodka one that i’m tucking into now it’s not going to get i know that’s a silly question but you know i’m just going to check yeah this is the one you haven’t waxed these would you consider doing them well again you know just for the same reason that we’re not trying to make a stilton the same as clawson tuxford’s crocodile or carlston yeah we’re not trying to make a blend of cheese the same as everybody else who makes wax chuckles so you know we’re trying to be different and you know sort of packing them in in something where you can see the cheese it’s slightly softer than quite a lot of the wax chuckles um and just a pointed difference really i can see that people like the cheese that’s those wax truckers though very practical yes brand travel easily you can see why they all do it yeah i mean this is still using um very fresh uh pinkland white you know that’s a couple of weeks old so so you you still have that real cheese flavor whereas sometimes if it’s in the wax chuckle it can be months old and you kind of lose the cheese mm-hmm really yeah that’s definitely a sin often um leveled at many wax cheeses is what any blended cheese it’s not necessarily where she’s blended where the flavor is that um much more uh of the additive than it is of the cheese itself yeah yeah i mean with the vodka and orange you can still taste the pink and white you get bitterness of the orange and the vodka but you can still taste the fresh saltiness yeah and and the the curd if the white with it being such a fresh cheese what we tried to do is sort of pick flavors which i think you know additives which go with the cheese as well rather than just you know picking a pot popular popular flavor yeah no you’ve i mean everyone does a chili but you know going with vodka and orange these are these are departures from standard we actually made a chocolate and chili one oh you see you’re gonna offend some of those and it was i i love it with ice cream you know it’s it’s it shouldn’t be it shouldn’t be right but but it but it but it’s one of those i might think i’m with you robert i’m not that i’ve tried it with ice cream to be honest but i’m i’m not a fan of um telling people what they should do in their own home if you saw me if you wanna have chocolate chili cheese with ice cream you go right ahead that’s what what being a liberal democracy is all about cheese with the chocolate and all that and uh no one can stop us the salt and the saltiness in the cheese with the with the chocolates kind of sort of go works quite well together right i’ve got some question here from claire l i don’t know if i know you claire ll uh what breed of cows do you have because i understand so the big the the the sheep so the ships of the field the black and whites yeah now you have your own farm as well as a creamery and your creamery is on your farm and you are working towards using your own milk but you’re not doing it yet is that right no the the plan was last last year we were going to start from sort of the middle of the summer but then because of covered and we lost about 80 percent of our business in in march with hotels you know so hospitality local businesses closing you know for under the restrictions so everybody would heard of the the whole stories of low milk prices last spring um you know if we’d ended up selling quite a lot of milk at all on the distress market that would have been pretty catastrophic for so so at the moment we’re we’re sort of building ourselves back up again and the plan is in as soon as we possibly can to to take the milk off all the milk off the farm yeah this is not not the year to be taking sort of substantial risks unless you have to really is it no no we’ve had lots of financial sort of blows to deal with and that we didn’t we didn’t really need another one to be fair yeah no i i i think that you know me everyone watching in the whole cheese community it’s just going to brief one side of relief if people like yourself can make it through no one asks um no one’s asking for big you know statements of of providence and all that right now we just want to we want to party in the summer that’s the summer that’s the outcome we’re looking for i mean the milk controlled dairy from two miles down the road you know essentially it’s the same same milk really off this particular farm so so um i mean we we have some chats in cheese land about whether the transportation of the milk or to be honest the sort of the bumbling down the road changes the flavor of the milk whether that sort of shake changes it or what i’m bringing across just literally from a milking parlor across across the yard makes a difference do you sort of have a view on that our milk only travels around about a mile down the road so for us um it’s not really got time to shake about tom calver of westcom once said to me that um he can tell who drives the tractor um from the taste of the milk from the uh from from the dairy to his to his from the from the milking parlor to the dairy because the shaking of the milk affects it now i think that says one of those things people say when they’re in their cups bluntly um i’m very much surprised if you could actually put it off but i’m interested people also say about goat’s milk is particularly vulnerable to aggressive treatment if you kind of think so it’d be interesting to see if and when you do bring the cheese making from your own hood whether you get a flavor difference yeah i mean certainly the the way you handle the curd that that is absolutely critical index to the flavor of the cheese and the texture and everything like that um but not not only experience with the handling and moving the milk around really well there you go you can you can find out we will find out when you get so hopefully this summer but it’ll be sort of next summer if not kind of thing that’s the plan yeah yeah i hope so yeah well that’d be so exciting the idea of um you know the milk coming from the farmer in stilton land which will make you the only on-farm stilton maker fermi a to use the french term in the world correct we will be even more unique my dad wouldn’t like that you’re unique or you’re not and i think guys it’s been fantastic to talk to you thank you so much for coming on tuesday night with cheese night with the academy of cheese um and absolutely best of luck coming out covered thank you very much thank you very much really appreciate that uh so goodbye from me goodbye from everybody who’s watching and so everyone wave and uh for those fans of tuesday’s tuesday night we’ll be back in two weeks and eat more cheese that’s the answer eat my british eat more british cheese oh yeah i should probably say that british cheese weekender is back um the dates are the twenty are you involved guys oh we are absolutely yes um what are you doing for british cheese weekenders this is exciting uh jeremy jeremy news part of our team will be will be telling us all about it tomorrow [Laughter] in that consultation that he does that ends up doing exactly what he tells you the kind of way is that is we know jeremy we love jeremy all right well brilliant bring on british cheese weekender that’ll be next month thank you very much and goodbye thank you