Stinking Bishop is a washed-rind cheese produced by Charles Martell and Son at Hunts Court Farm, Dymock, Gloucestershire, in the west of England since 1972. It is made from the milk of Gloucester cattle. It is a semi-soft, creamy, full-flavoured, strong artisan cheese. In 2009 it was voted Britain’s Smelliest Cheese. The odour and relatively strong taste make this a challenging cheese.
The colour of Stinking Bishop ranges from white/yellow to beige, with orange-to-grey rind. It is moulded into wheels 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) in weight, 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in diameter, and 4 centimetres (1.6 in) deep. Only about 20 tonnes are produced each year. Made with vegetarian rennet, this cheese is also suitable for vegetarians. The fat content is 48%.
The distinctive odour comes from the process with which the cheese is washed during its ripening; it is dipped in perry made from the local Stinking Bishop pear (from which the cheese gets its name) every four weeks while it matures. To increase the moisture content and to encourage bacterial activity, salt is not added until the cheese is removed from its mould.
Serving Stinking Bishop Cheese
Stinking Bishop has an oozing, luscious paste. It ranges in colour from white-yellow to beige, with a leather-like, orange rind. Annual production of this cow’s milk wheel is relatively limited. However, its famous odour, said to be similar to unwashed socks, keeps it popular in the UK and abroad. Like many washed rinds, however, the cheese’s flavour is much milder on the palate than the odour suggests. Expect to taste notes of nuts, cream and fruit. Because of the manufacturing process, a perry (a pear juice made in the manner of cider) would make a natural pair for this cheese. It might not however be sturdy enough to stand up to the stink. As an alternative, try a pear liqueur, a dessert cider, or a strong ale.
Stinking Bishop History
By 1972 there were low numbers of Gloucester breed heifers left in the world. Charles Martell bought up many of the surviving cows and began to produce cheese from their milk. This was not initially for its own sake, but to promote interest in the breed. Since then his own herd has expanded to 25 cows, and there has been a revival of interest by other farmers. This increased the total number of cows to around 450. The relatively small size of Martell’s herd has its advantages. It means that the Gloucester milk is combined and pasteurised with the milk of Friesian cattle from another farm nearby.
The Stinking Bishop pear was named after a local mid 19th Century farmer called Frederick Bishop, who earned himself the nick-name ‘Stinking Bishop’ because of his riotous behaviour.