The little-known rule that means Stilton cheese must be made in the East Midlands

Despite its name Stilton can only be made in the East MidlandsDespite its name Stilton can only be made in the East Midlands
Despite its name Stilton can only be made in the East Midlands
Stilton was described by George Orwell as “the best cheese of its type in the world"

Stilton must be one of the world’s only cheeses to have been the subject of a heated parliamentary debate and dogged campaigning. Well, perhaps outside France.

The more geographically gifted will know that the village of Stilton is in Cambridgeshire. The gourmets, however, will know that the cheese of the same name is very much a product of the East Midlands.

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Quite why it is then that a cheese which by law can only be produced in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire carries the name of a Cambridgeshire town is something of a mystery.

Read more: Your Nottingham

Described by George Orwell as “the best cheese of its type in the world”, the unmistakable blue-veined wheel features on cheese boards in restaurants throughout Europe and beyond, and is a favourite gastronomic delicacy in high-end food shops.

The distinctive blue veins of the blue - as opposed to white, veinless - variety are created during the ripening process, by piercing the cheese’s crust with steel spikes to allow thin internal pockets of air to develop.

There are strict stipulations about the manufacture and production of Stilton. It isn’t legally Stilton, for example, if it isn’t made with local pasteurised cheese. And most importantly, it must be produced within the three East Midlands counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire - where it may originate - and Derbyshire.

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Which is something of a contentious point, given that the parish of Stilton in Cambridgeshire feels it has a claim to make the cheese by right of name alone.

If Stilton were ever to become a producer, it would have to get round European Union Protected Designation Origin (PDO) laws that, even after Brexit, guard named products by limiting licenses to produce them.

So Champagne must be produced in the French Champagne region, Roquefort cheese must originate from the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, Jersey Royal potatoes must come from Jersey and, you get the idea.

An ironic anomaly to that is Stilton: the village that presumably gave the cheese its name cannot by law produce it.

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Which has produced such strong feelings that numerous bodies from Cambridgeshire cheesemakers to the MP for North West Cambridgeshire have petitioned Parliament, and Defra, to have the PDO status altered to include the town of Stilton.

But despite many efforts, even lobbying at the EU level, the famous blue cheese is staying within the domain of the three counties.