The first Stilton style cheese I made in 2008. The heavy mould / rind on the outside represents a "failure" to carefully maintain the humidity at around 80%. Too much above 80% results in greater mould growth and hence a thicker rind, if you don't remove it. And removing it is not without its problems as I found out later, so read on.
Niclely blue on the inside but the texture is too close to allow the blue mould to create a marbling effect. The texture issue is down to me packing the salted curds in the mould too tightly. Tasted great though!
Forward to 2009 and I am still having problems with the rind. This one looks nicer because it doesn’t have that orange growth on it probably from less handling by me. However, it still had a very thick rind due to high humidity again in the cheese cave. My cheese cave being a wine / beer fridge that can maintain a temperature of 12 - 15c. I have since learnt that I can control the humidity by spraying water on the floor and walls to increase it and opening the door slightly, held in place with a fridge magnet, to decrease it.
Here's a closer look at that mould. I have tried to wipe it off but it's firmly established on the cheese.
The rind on this one is much better but more by luck than judgement. I took this to France for a significant birthday party in 2010; sadly only British guests attending (English, Welsh and Irish mind) so no French judgement could be made.
Still with the 2010 French export. The whole cheese (about 4lb) was consumed between 10 people over two meals. Some people even ate the rind, which was a bit on the strong side for me. This was a real success! Apologies for the grainy photo, I blame the camera but may have been the wine...
2011 and still a thick rind. I still hadn't sussed out what was causing this at this stage. The "top hat" look comes from the weight of the cheese pressing on one end; I should have turned it more frequently, like daily. However, it was beautiful on the inside...
...and delicious. But still missing that elusive blue marbling.
The 2014 model. This had a much thinner rind but still not without problems...
[If you are wondering what happened to the 2013 cheese, I took it to a Christmas family gathering in Paris with the intention of impressing some French guests with a truly artisan English cheese. I don’t have any photos unfortunately, possibly wine related. That cheese was successful in that the French guests liked it and appeared impressed that I had made it in my kitchen, however, it wasn’t blue; quel desastre! It was as white as snow on the inside, because I had diligently scraped the mould off during its maturation which had the adverse effect of closing up the air holes made to allow the mould to develop internally. Some guests took the leftovers home and it then did develop the blue mould once the air could get to the inside.]
The 2014 blue on the inside. This had a thinner rind but the rind has made its way into the cheese through the holes made to create the internal blueing. I had made the holes bigger to prevent the horrors of a white cheese experienced in "Paris" the previous year. The marbling is getting there and this tasted great again but I wouldn't win any prizes due to that internal rind.
The 2015 cheese just after piercing. This year I have scaled up with a bigger mould and using an additional gallon of milk. Unfortunately, this proved problematic as the amount of curd produced took longer to press and was too wet at my normal point in proceedings which meant that I had to leave it in the press overnight and then it was too dry. Doh! There also wasn't enough curd to fill the mould. The end result was a short, wide cheese with a very uneven rind; again no prizes for me! However, the proof was in the eating...
The 2015 Christmas cheese cut open. Now I think the marbling is too exaggerated, the curds were too loosely packed in the mould. However, the rind wasn't too thick after all. It tasted great but perfection still awaits.
The 2016 Christmas cheese. Eureka, I think I have finally sussed it! Thin, dry, rind; good marbling; great flavour. If anything, this is a little under ripe but it went down well. This year I used a different recipe courtesy of cheesemaking.com. It was a Dolce Latte recipe and OK, the cheese is nothing like Dolce Latte but it is a very good blue cheese, in my view. This was made in early November and so was barely 2 months old; I still have half left so we will see how it develops. I also up-scaled further to 4 gallons of milk - that is about my limit and it makes a good sized wheel.
I also made a Gouda style cheese with the same quantity of milk based on a recipe from the same site. That was also very successful and makes an excellent melting cheese for cooking.