“ Brand: Charles Martell / Type: Cheese „
Stinking Bishop.. well, what can I say.. It felt like someone had taken a dump in my mouth then emptied their bin on my tongue, absolutely vile. I love a bit of cheese me, but this stuff is the chronic! From the smell of old sick that made my eyes water to the texture of old boot, this was not the one!
I had never heard of Stinking Bishop cheese until I was lucky enough to dine at the Savoy Grill (it isn't the kind of thing that I do as a habit so excuse the name-dropping).
Anyway, after a fabulous meal I ordered the cheeseboard as a dessert and when the waiter brought over this huge trolley full of cheese, I had to admit to him that I had no idea of what to choose. Lovely man that he was, he offered to choose for me and this seemed like a sensible idea to me. One of the cheeses that he picked out was Stinking Bishop as he said that I wouldn't have ever tasted anything quite like it.
It has a soft rind and a runny centre and an aroma that could definitely be described as pungent. It smells like quite an old cheese which will obviously please you if you like that kind of thing and not if you don't - horses for courses.
I like most cheese so I tucked in - you spread it rather than cut it and so I layered it on a Bath Oliver as I thought it would need a fairly thick cracker and took a bite. The first thought I had was 'yuk' as it had an almost rancid tang but after a couple of seconds, the cheese flavour came through and it was actually very palatable. I don't think it would be possible to eat a huge quantity of it as it is very strong and rich but it is such an unusual taste that I would recommend any cheese lover to try it.
I don't think it's readily available in terms of supermarkets but I'm sure that there are some deli's and specialist shops that serve it and it wouldn't be cheap but if you ever see it, grab a small portion and give it a go. It shouldn't taste good but it does.
As a bit of product placement, the "walk" on bit part that Stinking Bishop had in the last Wallace and Gromit film has to be a marketing coup. We all know that Wallace is a huge fan of cheese. Wensleydale is his favourite but any other cheese that gets the Wallace endorsement must sure be assured of commercial success.
The trouble is, tracking it down. I understand that it is usually not available to be bought for delivery by post. The name may give you a clue as to the reason for that. So, it wasn't until I was browsing in my local farmer's market store that I happened to notice that they had some of this cheese on sale. I decided to buy a small chunk, just to try. After I had picked myself up off of the floor when they told me the price, I took my treasured sample home with me, remembering to keep well away from everyone on the bus!
You may not have heard of Stinking Bishop. I certainly knew nothing about it but I learn from the Net that firstly, the name of the cheese actually comes from a food of a completely different type; a pear. Stinking Bishop is, apparently, a very old variety of pear that is primarily used for the production of the pear-based equivalent of cider, Perry. Stinking Bishop, the cheese and the pear, are produced by Charles Martell at his farm in Dymock, Gloucestershire. I understand that one of Martell's great passion is in preserving these old and fast disappearing traditional breeds of pear that once were ubiquitous in Britain.
I read also that this style of cheese has something of a local history, reputedly having been made by monks who lived in the area in medieval times. Martell has, it seems, also made something of a name for himself in preserving rare breeds of cattle, most especially the Gloucester. It is primarily though not exclusively from the milk of this herd that the cheese is produced.
Where the pears come into the equation is that the curds, before being packed into moulds to mature, are washed in perry made from the pears from which it gains its name. In addition, as the cheese matures and forms a rind, the whole cheese is again regularly washed in perry. I assume that this is why the rind forms an orangey colour rather than a pure white or off white that you might associate with other cheeses of this style, such as Brie.
Stinking Bishop, the cheese, is a very sticky, soft, runny cheese. Left unconstrained it will spread out from between the rind of a cut portion in quite a short period of time, even if refrigerated. In aroma it certainly lives up to its name. The odour of sweaty socks is the one that most comes to mind and in this it shares its character with a number of other cheeses such as Camembert and its local neighbour, Pont l'Eveque. However, I do not find this smell offensive though sweaty socks are not usually on my dining menu!
The taste is, though, something else and very different. The influence of the perry used during its production introduces a a slightly sweet, fruity and acidic tang that is extraordinarily tasty. Somehow the aroma and the taste just work together, don't ask me how!
There is no doubt that this cheese will be one that will make further appearances on our cheese tray although it won't be that often. This is primarily because of the price, at which I hinted earlier. I purchased a portion of just under 200gms; the cost was a bit under £6. This makes the cheese come out at around £30/kg. This is probably the most expensive cheese I have ever eaten, at around twice the price I have ever paid for anything else.
As an experience, I can definitely recommend Stinking Bishop. Buy a [very] small piece and try it for yourself. It may even be available on the cheese tray of the more discerning restaurant but probably the sort where the average meal requires a second mortgage.