Sunday, March 6, 2016

Second Mouse Cheese Co 'Frieda' & 'Henri'

Washed Rind
100g squares

2kg wheels

Cow's milk
Central West  

At about this time every year, I share my latest finds from judging at the Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Produce Show. This year I discovered two cheeses - Frieda and Henri. I had 'met' Frieda a few years ago, when she had just been created by cheesemaker Kai Woltman, of Second Mouse Cheese Co. Since then, I've watched her evolve and she is now looking (and tasting) stunning, with her proud orange rind, silky interior and bold but balanced flavour.

Second Mouse Cheese Co
Frieda is named after Kai's mother, who was still alive when Kai created the cheese in her honour. "She had a very strong personality," says Kai, "so it made sense to create a washed rind cheese for her." Kai grew up in Germany, and lived across the road from a cheesemaker who produced Tilsit. Like most Germans, he ate cheese every day.

When both of Kai's parents passed away a couple of years ago, he decided to create a cheese named after his father, Henri. Kai's father and family had a small dairy in Germany, and they made fresh cheeses for their own enjoyment. "My father was a sweet, kind man," said Kai, which is reflected in the sweet, milky flavours of Henri (the cheese).

Second Mouse Cheese Co
The cheese is a unique semi-hard style - "not Gouda, or Edam or Swiss," explains Kai, but inspired by all of those classics. It has a lovely natural rind and golden interior, which is strewn with small 'eyes' reminiscent of proper Danish Havarti. The supple texture balances beautifully with the mild, milky flavour, and it finishes with a lovely sweet note.

Both cheeses are a fitting tribute to their namesakes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Over the Moon Camembert

White mould
Cow's milk
New England
200g wheels

If you're a regular attendee at many of the farmers' markets around Newcastle or Sydney, you'll be no stranger to Over the Moon milk, in all its 100% Jersey, non-homogenised, luxurious glory. The milk has a cult-like following, and is sold by Johnson's Farmgate, along with their fresh produce sourced from growers in the Upper Hunter Valley.

Over the Moon
They've recently added a Camembert-style cheese to their range of dairy products. I bought one recently at the Newcastle City Farmers' Market, and it's not a bad first effort. In fact, once I let it ripen properly for a few extra weeks, it was better than many established brands. The texture was rich and smooth, and the flavour was creamy with deep savoury notes - something I look for (and rarely find) in Aussie white mould cheeses.

The cheese is made by John & Lia Christensen of New England Cheese, in the tiny town of Nowendoc (population 157) along Thunderbolt's Way. Some years ago, New England Cheese produced some impressive goat's milk cheeses, but then took a break from cheesemaking to concentrate on milk production.

But now that they're back in the cheesemaking business, you will likely see some of their new creations featured here in future posts. If this Camembert is anything to go by, you'll be over the moon when you try them.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bodalla Dairy 'Gumleaf Smoked'

Smoked Cheddar
Cow's milk

South Coast
100g portions
~3 months maturation

Bodalla Dairy is one of the newest kids on the NSW cheese block, and while they mostly make club cheese, a few natural cheeses are being churned out too. One of them is 'Gumleaf Smoked' - real cheddar cheese, which is really smoked.

Bodalla Dairy
'Gumleaf Smoked'
Owner and bush tucker enthusiast, Sandra McCuaig, told me she cuts up the gum leaves with scissors, creates a smouldering fire, then carefully cold-smokes the cheese for about 7 hours.

The result? The mildly sweet tang of a young cheddar, laced with a subtle hint of smoke. It's beautifully balanced, and there's not a hint of eucalyptus in the flavour - so you can banish any thoughts of lozenge-laced cheese from your imagination!

It's delicious on its own, but sensational on a toasted sandwich or melted over a burger.

While the South Coast of NSW might be thought of as strictly cheddar territory, Bodalla Dairy's cheesemaker, Lukas Klekowski, is experimenting with soft ripened cheeses, and other styles beyond those familiar yellow blocks. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nimbin Valley Dairy 'Sainte Billie'

Surface-ripened lactic
Goat's milk (mixed Saanen, Toggenberg, British Alpine)

Northern Rivers
60g discs
~1 month maturation

I can't decide what I like best about this cute little button - its dense, fudgey texture, its ivory, wrinkled skin, or its delicately balanced creamy and lemony flavours.

Nimbin Valley Dairy
'Sainte Billie'
Cheesemaker Paul Wilson has taken inspiration from beautiful French goat's milk cheeses such as Saint-Felicien, Pelardon, Rocamadour and Cabecou. None of those is available in Australia, which makes Sainte Billie even more likeable.

This style of cheese requires great skill to create, and even greater skill to produce really well. Sainte Billie is up there with the best in the country.

In fact, I think what I like best about Sainte Billie is its size - perfect for one. When cheese is this good, who wants to share?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

La Stella Latticini 'Nodini'

Stretched curd
Cow's milk
30g each

"Passion, as everyone knows, is red." That's the first thing you'll read when you open the La Stella Latticini website. "In our case, though, it's white."

My passion is finding beautiful new cheeses, and this is the first Nodini I've come across in NSW. They're "little knots" that fit in the palm of your hand, made in the same way as fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, but hand-tied into a knot instead of shaped into a ball.

La Stella Latticini
I judged the Nodini at the Sydney Royal Cheese Show last month, and awarded them a gold medal, along with La Stella Latticini's beautiful burrata, and light-as-a-cloud ricotta.

It wasn't just the shape that caught my eye, but the beautifully fine filaments when I tore the knots apart. Fine filaments - like shredded, cooked chicken breast - are the mark of fine craftsmanship in stretched curd cheeses, and these are the finest I've seen in years. And the flavour was clean and sweet, and marvellously milky.

How to eat? Simply with cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil, or with the Autumn bounty of fresh figs and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Small Cow Farm 'Rustic' Blue

Blue vein
Cow's milk
Southern Highlands
random weight portions

As we celebrate the many great things about Australia, spare a thought for our artisan cheesemakers and small dairy farmers. It might be our national day, but animals still need milking, cheeses still need turning and there's no such thing as overtime rates for working on a public holiday.

Small Cow Farm
'Rustic' Blue
While it's nice to know they're there, our artisan cheese producers won't survive unless we buy their cheese, and buy it often. If you're not sure where to start, here's a tip: all of the cheeses featured here are handmade by real people - usually in small batches, and often with milk from their own animals.

Rustic Blue is the latest creation from cheesemaker Mark Williams at Small Cow Farm. It's been available for about a year, and is still a work in progress, but its quality and character are consistent.

In shape, size and texture, it reminds me of Fourme d'Ambert, from the Auvergne region of France. It's creamier and milder than their signature Small Cow Blue, which has intense blue notes and a spicy finish. 'Rustic' Blue is more earthy and approachable - perfect for lazy grazing and casual scoffing.

So, celebrate Australia Day with artisan cheese, and help advance Australian fare.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Binnorie Brie

White Mould
Cow's milk
Hunter Valley
1kg wheels

It's time to celebrate the end of another year of discovering great local cheeses. How better to do it than with a whole wheel of brie? It's the cheese equivalent of comfort food - mild, creamy, and not too challenging.

Binnorie Brie
Binnorie Brie is one of the best value around. It's often released quite young, so buy a whole wheel to keep for a few weeks in the fridge, and enjoy it at its peak, near the best before date.

Cheese-maker Simon Gough has created a consistently good cheese that is smooth and creamy when fully ripe, with sweet butter flavours and a hint of mushrooms.

Pair it with a bottle of bubbles and a baguette for an instant crowd-pleaser.

So here's to a cheesy new year, and another 365 days of eating, enjoying and discovering more delicious local cheeses.