Blue Shropshire is an eye-catching cheese perfect for your Christmas cheeseboard with its distinctive orange colour, delicate veining and mellow blue taste.
Our Blue Shropshire is handmade by family-run Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottinghamshire. With a recipe similar to their classic Stilton, its deep orange colour comes from the addition of annatto, a natural vegetable dye. Aged for twelve weeks, Blue Shropshire has a buttery flavour with hints of burnt caramel, nuttiness and tangy blue.
• Pasteurised cow's milk
• Vegetarian rennet.
What's special about Cropwell Bishop Blue Shropshire?
Cropwell Bishop Creamery in the Vale of Belvoir, Nottinghamshire, takes its name from the village in which it is located. It is home to the Skailes family who have been making cheese for three generations, sourcing milk from local farms whose cows graze on the green swards of the Peak District National Park. Best known for their classic Stilton, Blue Shropshire is handcrafted to a similar recipe using traditional methods that have changed little since the 17th Century.
Cropwell Bishop Blue Shropshire is made from a blend of evening and morning milk. Starter culture is added along with vegetarian rennet, Penicillium roqueforti spores and annatto dye. The curds are drained and left to settle overnight before being milled, salted and transferred by hand to cylindrical moulds called 'hoops'. After one week, the cheese is removed from these moulds and 'rubbed up' (smoothed) to seal the rind and prevent premature development of blue moulds.
After four weeks in the ripening room, truckles of Blue Shropshire are pierced with stainless steel needles. This introduces air into the cheese and activates the growth of delicate blue veins, radiating from the centre, whilst the cheese matures for a further seven weeks to develop its unique, mellow flavour. The orangey-brown natural rind is edible and although a little chewy, it is particularly rich in flavour. Blue Shropshire has a semi-firm texture. The addition of annatto is said to soften its texture slightly in comparison to classic Stilton. In taste it is rich and creamy, slightly sharper than Stilton.
The vibrant colour of Blue Shropshire comes from the addition of annatto to the milk at the start of cheese making. This is a natural vegetable dye used widely in both artisanal and industrial food production including the making of other cheeses such as Appleby's Cheshire and Sparkenhoe Red Leicester. Annatto is derived from the seeds of the Achiote tree (Bixa orellana) native to tropical areas of the Americas. Annatto is found in the reddish waxy coating of the seed. This coating is typically ground to a fine powder or paste for use as an orange colouring. It has a delicate nutmeg aroma and a slightly nutty, peppery flavour but these are only detectable in large quantities.
Cropwell Bishop Blue Shropshire is multi-award winning having been crowned Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards in 2016 and more recently receiving two stars in the Great Taste Awards 2019 and a Silver medal at the World Cheese Awards 2019.
Despite its name, Blue Shropshire has no historical link to the county of Shropshire. The cheese originated in the 1970s at Castle Stuart Dairy in Inverness - a Scottish attempt to replicate Stilton with a twist. It was first known as 'Inverness-shire Blue' or 'Blue Stuart' but eventually marketed as 'Blue Shropshire' to increase its popularity. Castle Stuart Dairy closed in the 1980s and for a short period the cheese was made in Cheshire. Now it is made by a small number of producers including the Shropshire Cheese Company where, since 2010, the Eyres family has been making Blue Shropshire in its namesake County for the first time.
Blue Shropshire is best enjoyed well warmed to room temperature. It tastes good with water biscuits, crunchy walnuts and refreshing pears. It is also well matched by figs and dried fruit. Like Stilton, a wedge of Blue Shropshire should be cut in a fan shape from the thin edge. From the way in which these cheeses are pierced, the 'nose' of each wedge has the highest density of blue veining and is particularly special to taste. It must be shared in the Christmas spirit of goodwill!