Derbyshire is one of the three counties in England (along with Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire) where Stilton can be made, which is very fortuitous for the area’s cheese makers; two other blue cheeses in the county also have protected status but I have yet to sample them. So after a morning of envious stares at a blackcurrant danish I should have ordered, and looking around Ashbourne’s many antiques shops, a stop by the Old Hartington Cheese Shop on the edge of the Peak District was in order.
The small shop is at the heart of the small village of Hartington, a popular starting point for walks in the surrounding hills and is a definite destination for turophiles as the only creamery in Derbyshire with a “Stilton license”. The cheese counter extends across the whole of the small shop and is resplendent with a combination of local cheeses like sage Derby, and those that are made in the adjoining creamery, like the Peakdale Blue which we took home a wedge of. They also sell a selection of locally produced foodstuffs like beers, English wines and chutneys.
That wedge of Peakdale Blue didn’t make it through the night though. Unsurprising in part on account of my family’s insatiable appetite for savoury snacks of any kind, but also as the creamery is award winning. It was creamy and less sharp than Stilton can be, though most importantly, moreish rather than overpowering as is the case with many blue cheeses. I should imagine that moreishness is a deliberate business strategy.
The second cheese of the holiday was a white Stilton, studded with apricots and formed part of a lunchtime cheeseboard. Normally, I’m not keen on cheeses that have dried fruit encased within them. Of course, I’m more used to the prepackaged supermarket offerings of highly sweetened dried cranberries or blueberries lodged in something quite mild so perhaps I have a bit of a bias. This cheese however, was a bit of a revelation. The cheese was rich and creamy and the apricots sweet enough to balance the sharpness of the Stilton so that albeit for the temperature, you almost felt like you were eating ice cream.
I’m having a little bit of a break from cheese at the moment, mostly to ensure I can still see my feet when I stand, but I think I might have to be on the hunt for a good cheese shop in Devon now.