World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Stinking Bishop from the UK.
Country: UK 🇬🇧
Made from: Cow's Milk
Texture: creamy and smooth
Taste: full-flavored - strong
Aroma: pungent and stinky
Aging: 6 – 8 weeks
Stinking Bishop is a full fat pasteurised cow's milk soft cheese made by Charles Martell & Son since 1972 at their Laurel Farm in Dymock, England. By 1972 there were just 68 Gloucester breed heifers left in the world. Charles Martell bought up many of the surviving cows, and began to produce cheese from their milk, not initially for its own sake, but to promote interest in the Gloucester breed. The relatively small size of Martell's herd means that the Gloucester milk is combined and pasteurised with the milk of Friesian cattle from another farm nearby. The fat content is 48%.
Milk of rare Gloucester cattle is used to produce the cheese though sometimes their milk is mixed with the milk of Friesian cattle. Made with vegetarian rennet, this cheese is also suitable for vegetarians. The colour of Stinking Bishop ranges from white/yellow to beige, with an orange to grey rind. It is moulded into wheels 2 kg (4.4 lb) in weight, 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter, and 4 cm (1.5 inch) deep. Only about 20 tonnes are produced each year.
The distinctive odour comes from the process with which the cheese is washed during its ripening; it is immersed in perry made from the local Stinking Bishop pear (from which the cheese gets its name) every four weeks while it matures. This process makes it a monastic type of cheese which owes its origin to the Cistercian monks who once farmed the pastures of Hunts Court Farm. As with many monastic cheeses, this variety is matured in humid cave-like conditions. To increase the moisture content and to encourage bacterial activity, salt is not added until the cheese is removed from its mould. The alcoholic wash gives the cheese its distinctive pungent aroma and brown/pink rind colour. As a result of the natural rind, changeable hues of mould spots appear on the cheese from time to time.
Stinking Bishop is an award-winning artisanal cheese. Among these accolades is “smelliest cheese in Britain.” Though it has a subtle, nutty flavor, the Gloucestershire specialty is most famous for its strong aroma.
It is available in 5lbs wheels, each measuring 8-inches in diameter and 2-inches deep. The affinage takes from six to eight weeks.
Stinking Bishop gets its distinct odor from soaking in perry, a type of pear cider, as it ripens. Oddly, it’s the pear in this cider, a local Gloucestershire variety, that’s the source of the cheese’s name. The Stinking Bishop pear was named after a farmer who lived in the area from 1847 to 1919. Frederick Bishop was, by all accounts, a terrible man who liked drinking as much as he disliked bathing. The drunk farmer’s foul reputation earned him, as well as the pears on his property, the nickname Stinking Bishop.
It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the oddly named pear crossed paths with an endangered breed of cow. In 1972, dairy farmer Charles Martell bought some of the last remaining Old Gloucester cows, and put them to work producing milk for cheese. After discovering that his land had once been farmed by Cistercian monks, Martell decided to use the 17th-century monastic technique of washing his cheese rinds. His liquid of choice was, of course, pear cider.
And so Stinking Bishop was born. It has always remained an artisanal cheese that’s not available in your average supermarket, but its reputation sky-rocketed thanks to the 2005 stop-motion film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. In the movie, Gromit uses the pungent cheese to revive his friend.
A few years later, Stinking Bishop was officially named the smelliest cheese in Britain, further cementing its position as one of the most well-known British cheeses, no small feat for a craft cheese that the majority of Brits have never tried.
How to enjoy it
The strong aroma of Stinking Bishop makes it difficult for any wine to stand up to it. The best approach is to pair it with a local British cider, a white port or a sweeter Riesling.
Source: Cheese.com, Gastro Obscura, Pongcheese.co.uk, Wikipedia,