Dovedale Cheese, Derbyshire
The Dove Valley in the Derbyshire Peak District has been known for centuries for its high quality grazing – a phrase which generally means the area also gets plenty of rain. As a result it was once famous for its cheeses, made artisan style by farmers’ wives to supplement their family income, or just to avoid milk being wasted in the days before railways facilitated the supply of milk from country farms to urban dwellers.
The cheese factory in the village of Hartington in Dovedale was a natural development from domestic production. It is said to have been founded by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1870s when there was a surge in the industrialisation of cheese-making. Hartington made Derby Cheese, but economic factors weighed against it, and the place closed in the last decade of the 19th century, only to re-open in 1900 when a Melton Mowbray cheese-maker bought it to produce Stilton.
The same plant now makes Dovedale, a far less well-known cheese than Stilton , but one which like Stilton has EU protection (anomalously Stilton’s protection encompasses the Hartington plant because of its history).
Dovedale is a blue cheese made from pasteurised cows’ milk, far milder in flavour than Stilton. It is made from milk from Derbyshire , Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire , though with the provision for Shropshire and Cheshire milk to be used if extraordinary circumstances arise. It is notably creamy, with marked blue veins promoted by the piercing of the maturing cheese from above. Dovedale’s special character, compared to other British blues, comes from its wet-brining – it is dipped in briny water rather than simply salted salt.
Though the flavour is not overwhelming, it is fairly long, a cheese that repays a moment longer dwelling in the mouth than its more upfront equivalents require. As such a better pairing in terms of drink is a lighter red such as Beaujolais rather than Stilton’s famous (and often over-rated) partnership with Port, though it would seem more authentic and no less rewarding to accompany it with beer from Burton in neighbouring Staffordshire.