Famous for their vintage red Leicester, the Clarke family diversified further into blue-cheese production when their son Will returned to the farm. Using milk from their 150 cows he decided to develop a classic British ‘rinded’ blue akin to the Stilton made in the region.
The end result is Sparkenhoe Blue – a cheese of its own: mellow blue, with dense-fudgy texture, and a savoury finish.
Jo and David Clarke revived farmhouse red Leicester in 2005. For 50 years before that there had been no farmhouse red Leicester made at all. From a three-generation farming family, David had been bemoaning the lack of good quality red Leicester, so his friends challenged him to use his own milk to make one!
After a short cheese-making course he and Jo began experimenting. Using their farm’s own unpasteurised milk, they followed traditional recipes. They decided to name the resulting delicious red cheese after their farm, Sparkenhoe, which has been its administrative name since the 1300s.
In 2017, only 30% of their milk was used to make Sparkenhoe red Leicester, the rest being sold at low price as liquid milk. To improve the return, they decided to start producing another cheese to go alongside Sparkenhoe. Being in the Stilton region, they opted to build a brand new dairy on the farm, purpose-built for making Stilton. At that time, David and Jo’s son, Will, finished studying at university, so he came back to the farm and was tasked with developing and making the cheese.
Over the following year, Sparkenhoe Blue was developed, based on a Stilton recipe but made with unpasteurised milk (since 1990 Stilton has had to be made with pasteurised milk only). The original plan was to make Stilton, hence using pasteurised milk, but the milk pasteuriser is still sitting unused in the corner of the dairy! They were extremely happy with the results from their raw unpasteurised milk and have chosen to continue down that route. Made to the same recipe as Stilton, this blue is hand-ladled to maintain a better consistency in the curd (most Stilton production is automated) and matured for 14 weeks. It is pierced at about six weeks old to allow the blue mould to form.
This product will have two weeks shelf life from the date of delivery.