Five reasons Neal’s Yard Dairy Blues deserve a place on your Christmas Table

We are passionate champions of the cheeses that we sell. Blue cheese has a special place in our hearts. First and foremost of course, we love the flavours. Blues are also the backbone of our sales, the cheeses we sell the most of, so we invest a lot in getting them right. Here's why we believe you should buy your Christmas blue from us. 

1. The best Colston Bassett Stilton you can buy, and here’s why…

Colston Bassett Stilton has a well-deserved reputation in the UK as the "King of Christmas Cheese". Colston Bassett Dairy is renowned for its excellence, they meticulously hand ladle the curds for every cheese they make, ensuring the perfect buttery texture.

The Colston Bassett Stilton we sell is made to a unique recipe especially for us. They use traditional animal rennet for our cheeses, which we believe gives our Colston Bassett Stilton added depth of flavour. The approach to piercing that Colston Basset follows for our cheeses is also unique to us. Piercing is the process of introducing air to the core of the cheese to encourage the development of the blue veins. Most commercial Stilton producers will do three piercings, when the cheese is relatively young. Our Colston Bassett Stilton is pierced later, when the flavours and texture of the cheese have had more time to develop. Our cheeses typically have only two piercings too. This approach of later and less allows for slower, gentler maturing. This in turn results in a flavour profile which is balanced, mellow, well-rounded and long-lasting. It converts many who profess to dislike Stilton.

Of perhaps as much importance as the recipe for our cheese is the relationship we have with Colston Bassett Dairy, and Billy Kevan, the cheesemaker. We’ve been working with Colston Bassett from the early days of NYD and with Billy specifically for well over 20 years. It is the strength of that relationship, Billy’s cheesemaking and maturation knowledge and experience, as well as the hard work of everyone at Colston Bassett Dairy that has helped develop such a consistently outstanding cheese. We work collaboratively to ensure our customers eat Billy’s cheese when it is at its best. We think you can taste just how much this work pays off.

2. The best cared for blues in the industry

All of our cheeses are exceptionally well looked after, and our blue cheeses are no exception. Blues are the backbone of our sales, the cheeses we sell the most of at Christmas, so we invest a lot in getting them right. We have a team of highly skilled cheese maturers, who between them have decades of experience. They lovingly turn, brush and re-wrap our blues, moving them around different temperature and humidity-controlled environments to make sure they develop as we intend. They work closely with our sales teams to understand what each of our customer groups prefers in their cheese, and when the cheese will arrive with the customer and be eaten. They taste all our cheeses regularly and make sure what we send out is at its best and selected for the right market. So, for example, when your piece of Colston Bassett Stilton arrives from your online order you can be safe in the knowledge that it is sent ready to eat and will be perfect to enjoy over the next two weeks. Likewise, they have the skill and foresight to choose the right cheeses to export all over the world, finishing their maturing in transit and landing in cheese shops ripe and ready to be sold.

3. Neal loves a deal

For festive feasting, we tend to advise that it's best to go for fewer, larger pieces of cheese. Larger pieces tend to keep better than smaller ones, as they have proportionally less surface area.

For Christmas staples such as Colston Bassett Stilton and Stichelton, we offer a discount (included in the price) on "bulk" sized pieces (2kg/quarters or larger). These are great value for larger gatherings, sharing with friends, or simply delicious to work your way through over the holidays.

Is there a better centrepiece for a Christmas party table than a generous half or quarter of Colston Bassett Stilton or Stichelton...? We think you’d be hard pressed to find one!

4. Supporting new and innovative cheesemakers

Supporting cheesemakers is at the core of what we do, this goes for blue cheesemakers too. There are lots of great examples of how we have worked with and supported cheesemakers in our blues category. We could look right back to the early 80’s, when founding Director Randolph worked closely with Robin Congdon to develop his range of Roquefort-inspired British cheeses - Beenleigh, Harbourne and Devon - to more recently when we developed Brunswick Blue by creating a new maturing pathway for Beenleigh Blue in partnership with current cheesemaker Ben Harris.

Another discovery of the early 80’s is Cashel Blue, a gorgonzola inspired cheese from Tipperary, Ireland. Cashel Blue may now be a household name, but back then it was the only blue cheese being made in Ireland. It has been our great privilege to work with the Grubb family who make it over the past 30 or so years. They too are attuned to what our customers most enjoy from their cheese and select batches to send us based on our unique specifications.

And then of course there is Pevensey Blue, the newest blue to arrive on our counters. We’ve been working with cheesemakers Martin and Hazel through all stages of its conception, from advising on the type of cheese they should be making, to working with them in the maturing rooms and, as the cheeses started to be made, providing suggestions for improvement. Although production volumes are on the small side, we are delighted to have a limited amount of Pevensey available to sell online this year.

5. Championing traditional English blue cheeses

When Neal’s Yard Dairy began, there were no farmhouse Stilton producers left, the last having stopped production before the Second World War. By the 90’s all Stilton cheeses were made from pasteurised milk. Founder Randolph Hodgson had always wanted to bring that memory back to life. 

Himself and cheesemaker Joe Schneider set out to make traditional raw milk blue cheese, and in 2006 Stichelton was born. Over the years Stichelton has evolved a huge amount. We are really excited about the cheese produced this year, some of the best ever made with an extraordinary range of flavours: from crisp green apple right through to beef stock umami.

Fast forward to today and we have a second traditional raw milk blue cheese This is Sparkenhoe Blue, which has been made by Will Clarke since 2017. Will is a young second generation cheesemaker, whose family produce Sparkenhoe Red Leicester. We've been committed to helping him, with regular feedback and monthly farm visits.

We are immensely proud to have two traditional raw milk blue cheeses on our counters today, both made on the farms where the milk is produced.