WORLD FOOD – Cheese In Australia – Part Two

Heidi Gruyere
Winner of many Australian awards, this unique farm cheese was first developed by cheese-maker Frank Marchand close to the village of Exton in North East Tasmania, after years of studying traditional cheese-making in Switzerland . Although he has recently hung up his white wellies and retired, Marchand’s reputation lives on. All cheeses are ripened in warm, humid curing rooms on the farm and the finest examples are made from late spring milk, when the local pastures are green and full of wildflowers. This cheese is at its best when matured for at least a year, preferably longer, when the smooth texture of the cheese becomes dense and concentrated, and has a rich nutty flavour with just a hint of caramel.

Healeys Pyengana
From the isolated valley of Pyengana in North East Tasmania, Australia’s oldest specialist cheese is still made to a method that has hardly changed since the 1890s. Made by the Healey family for over four generations, this ‘stirred curd ‘ farm cheddar is similar to Colby and produced in small quantities for just eight months of the year. It is still wrapped in cheesecloth and matured the traditional way – no vacuum bags, waxed cheese or blocks here. The cheeses are made in various sizes, but the best are the large 20-pounders, which have been matured for 18 months. These develop a fine open, slightly crumbly texture and a rich, sweet, tangy flavor reminiscent of honey and green grass .

In the dry hills of Gidgegannuo, north of Perth, Gabrielle Kervalla has been perfecting the art of making goat’s milk cheese for almost 20 years. Her unique herd of goats is a combination of Anglo, Nubian and Saanen breeds which are fed according to strict organic principles. Milk quality is exceptional and the range of cheeses varies from fresh fromage frais and delicate pyramids coated in ash, to mature cheeses ripened for up to two months .The small log shaped affine, which is matured on the farm for three weeks under a white rind, is the most widely available. Creamy rich and smooth, these cheeses will leave a long and lingering mouth feel with just a hint of goat. The best cheeses here are made from autumn milk at the end of the season’s lactation, but spring milk cheeses also have a special flavor, influenced by the profusion of wild flowers that grow across the hills at this time of year.

Piano Hill – Telegraph Road Vintage
Tucked away just off the highway in Gippsland, Victoria, the cheeses made at Piano Hill Farm are made only from fresh biodynamic milk collected from the farm’s herd of Friesian cows. Cheese-maker Steve Brown studied cheese-making around the world before establishing this family enterprise and the Telegraph Road cheese is based on an old Dutch farm Gouda recipe. Matured for over 20 months under a natural breathing rind, the cheese develops a smooth and very concentrated creamy texture that crumbles in large chunks when broken. The best cheeses are made in late spring and early autumn and have a slightly sweet toffee finish with overtones of butter and fresh green grass.

Meredith Marinated Feta
Australian small cheese-makers make more than a dozen types of marinated feta, but this is one of the best. Based on an old recipe picked up by a friend visiting the Middle East, this cheese is made by Julie Cameron on the family farm at Meredith, Victoria. What make it outstanding is the soft silky texture of the cheese, which is made from fresh goat’s milk , and the use of the best quality local fresh herbs, garlic, and spices in the marinade. An irresistible combination of textures and flavors.

Meredith Blue
Made on the farm in prime rolling sheep country near Ballarat, Victoria, this was Australia’s first ewe’s milk blue cheese. Handmade by Julie Cameron, the small cheeses are covered by a natural, mottled grey-colored rind, and are matured fro two months or longer in an old shipping container parked at the back of the dairy. The interior is ivory in color and soft in texture, interspersed with dark blue veins, which provide a unique flavor to the mature cheese. This cheese is often unavailable during the summer because of milk quality and the best cheeses are those made with spring Milk and available just before Christmas. Predictably, they are soft and slightly runny at the edges with a sensational silky mouth feel and mild blue, salty finish .

Milawa Gold
Made by David Brown at an old butter factory in Milawa in the NE of Victoria, this cheese takes part of its name form its distinct orange rind. Washed with water drawn from the well, the cheese is matured for several months on wooden shelves alongside the blue cheeses for which the dairy is also well known. Smelling of old socks, autumn fungi, and just a hint of the farmyard, the moist, rich cheese that lies beneath the rind is mild and creamy with a gentle nature. At its seasonal best in early winter, when the first snow has fallen on the nearby hills, the grapes are picked, and the walnuts of the region are ready to eat.

Cradle Mountain – Red Square
The unusual name of this cheese refers to its shape and color rather than the square in Moscow. Made by Lactos, part of the French Bongrain group, in North West Tasmania, using a traditional method borrowed from Normandy. The cheese has a distinctive terra cotta colored rind covered by a thin veil of white mold. Mild and creamy for much of the year, the best cheeses are made in autumn with late lactation cow’s milk. When ripened under ideal conditions, they become wonderfully rich and pungent with a creamy center that will ooze from beneath the rind .

Gippsland Blue
Famous as the first blue cheese made on the farm in Australia, this cheese was created in Gippsland Victoria in the early 1980s, a period that heralded a new era of pride in Australian specialist cheese-making. Made by Laurie Jensen it is still the only true farmhouse blue cheese made from cows milk. The dairy was purpose built over underground cellars to avoid the extremes of summer heat, and all the blue cheeses are ripened here on pine shelves over several months. The damp dark environment encourages a unique flora of blue moulds and yeasts to flourish. The best examples have a soft and sticky creamy texture punctuated with steely blue veins. Look for them in late spring and early winter.

Woodside Ediths
Made close to the village of Woodside in the Adelaide hills of South Australia, this pure goat’s milk cheese is distinguished by its very delicate fine moist texture and coat of black charcoal on the rind. After aging for 3 weeks in the dairy’s humid curing rooms, which were once used for smoking small goods, the small black drums become covered with a mottled grey-blue and white powdery mold. As they ripen the curds, soften to a smooth velvet texture that just melts in your mouth like ice cream. The best cheeses develop a little runny edge under the rind and are usually made in early autumn.

Shaw River Buffalo Mozzarella
Roger Haldene imported the first herd of dairy buffalo to Western District Victoria from Italy in 1995. The small herd now grazes the rich seaside pastures of the Shaw River that flows into the Southern Ocean at Yambuck. Mozzarella is all made by the family and by hand to ensure the delicate characteristics of this special milk are preserved in the rich stringy layers of curd encased by a thin, wet ,shiny skin. The best season is February and March, when it is hot and dry and the milk develops a creamy richness. It also just happens to coincide with the season’s tomato and basil harvest.

Will Studd, an international authority on cheese, was born in England and emigrated to Australia in 1981. His ‘Chalk and Cheese’ was named ‘best cheese book in the world’ in 1999.

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