Q: In many a pub and grocery store in the United Kingdom, servicemembers may have run across a distinct type of cheese called Stilton they’ve never heard of, included as a byproduct in their sausages and pies. What’s up with that?

A: If it’s unfamiliar, it’s understandable — Stilton is about as English as Buckingham Palace, and is a little too specialized to muscle out cheddar or mozzarella in popular dishes.

A pungent, rich type of cheese somewhat akin to Dutch bleu or Roquefort, Stilton can be made in only three English counties — Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire — where only seven dairies are licensed to produce it, said Alan Salt, a specialist in making and marketing Stilton.

The cheese actually came about as mostly an accident, Salt said, when dairies in the region had a batch of white cheese grow a distinctive type of bluish mold that gave it a unique taste. One dairy in particular began making it and selling it from a stagecoach station in the town of Stilton and word of it began to spread from there, Salt said.

These days, Stilton — described by Salt as pungent and slightly acidic, but creamier than a Danish bleu — is most often eaten at Christmas, when it is usually served as a snack at parties.

“The traditional thing to do is to eat it on its own with crackers or on crusty bread, and a glass of port,” he said. Or, just as good, is to put a thin slice on a grilled steak, Salt said.

“It’s beautiful,” he said.

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