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What Is Shropshire Blue?

Milk, which is used to make Shropshire blue.
Annatto, which is used to make Shropshire blue.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 June 2014
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Shropshire blue is a creamy, sharply flavored cheese made from cow’s milk. It is believed to have originated in Scotland in the mid-20th century. Shropshire blue features dark veining as well as a distinctive orange color which results from the addition of a natural coloring agent called annatto during its preparation. Usually, Shropshire blue is prepared using a process which closely resembles that used for other British blue cheeses, and is aged for a period of approximately three months. This cheese can be incorporated into recipes or enjoyed alone or as part of a cheese board.

It is believed that Shropshire blue was first devised by a cheesemaker named Andy Williamson at a dairy based in Inverness, Scotland, in the mid-20th century. As the dairy was closed down shortly after the cheese was invented, though, it did not immediately enjoy widespread popularity. After the dairy’s closure, however, certain blue cheese producers at other dairies in the United Kingdom began to develop this cheese, and by the late 20th century it had become one of the most common blue cheeses in Britain.

Like all blue cheeses, Shropshire blue is marked by veining which is caused by the mold Penicillum. One of the features which sets this cheese apart from other blues is its bright orange hue. This distinctive tone results from the addition of a natural coloring agent called annatto to the cheese during its preparation.

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Usually, Shropshire blue is prepared using a process which closely resembles that used to make other British blue cheeses, and as such, its flavor is similar to that of common British blues like Stilton. It contains cow’s milk which is pasteurized and then combined with a vegetarian rennet, or curdling agent. Generally, this type of cheese must age for approximately three months.

As with many blue cheeses, Shropshire blue has a dense, musty smell, a creamy-yet-crumbly texture, and an intense flavor. It is sometimes incorporated into salads or even melted into soups or gourmet interpretations of dishes like macaroni and cheese. Many Shropshire enthusiasts argue, however, that this type of cheese is at its best when it is enjoyed on its own, with simple accompaniments like bread, crackers, or fruit, or as part of a cheese board. Due to its strength and creaminess, many find that this cheese pairs well with substantial, sweet-edged drinks such as port as well as certain ales.

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