washed-rind cheese = washed rind cheese = monastery cheese = stinky cheese As they ripen, these cheeses are washed with a liquid. The moisture encourages the growth of bacteria, giving the cheese a strong odor and flavor. Many of these cheeses are soft or semi-soft and have sticky, reddish-orange rinds, which most people consider too pungent to eat. It takes a strong wine like a Burgundy or Pinot Gris to stand up to most of the cheeses in this category. Beer works, too.
For quite some time I have had a love affair with washed rind cheeses such as Livarot and Pont L'Eveque. Like eating Durian, one must be prepared to brave the smell to appreciate the flavour. In the case of these cheeses, people have approximated the malodour to dirty socks, stinky feet and belly button cheese. While I cannot abide Durian, I am happy to entertain washed rind and occasionally turn a blind eye to the food miles accrued on a piece of French cheese imported by Will Studd.
Recently while in the Barossa Valley we had a superlative meal at Mark McNamara's Appellation in Seppeltsfield. To my surprise the cheese course sported a local washed rind that gave my favourite imports a run for the money. It came from The Barossa Valley Cheese Company in Anguston.
The Cheesemaker turned out to be the ex-wife of one of my favourite winemakers - Ben Glaetzer. Victoria Glaetzer had learnt her craft while they lived and worked as winemakers in Bordeaux during three successive vintages. Now, using fresh milk sourced daily, direct from a local dairy, Victoria and her business partner and mother, Frances McClurg, specialise in hand-made soft white mould, washed rind, and fresh cheese styles in the heart of Angaston. They produce about 40kg of cheese a week and their shopfront is the starting point for a number of food and wine tours of the region.
We bought ourselves a piece to bring home along with a Petite Princess Goat Camembert and a tub of especially creamy and flavoursome goats curd. The stinky went down especially well with a glass of local Turkey Flat Pedro Ximenez.
According to Australian Specialty Cheesemakers Association vice-president Ian Roberton, a cheese wholesaler and chief judge for the association's three annual cheese shows. "There's no doubt the [local] industry is getting stronger and there's certainly been an improvement in quality, quantity and variety".
With our high-quality milk and growing artisan cheese sector (ASCA has about 65 members), there's evidence of an active, evolving industry. According to figures from Dairy Australia, artisan cheese production last year reached about 33,000 tonnes - almost twice that of six years earlier. Fresh cheeses including ricotta, fresh curd, mozzarella and fetas rose by 4 per cent. Production of surface-ripened styles - brie, camembert and the stinkier washed rinds - rose by 24 per cent.
Despite the challenges of the drought, judges at the specialty cheese show in Sydney in May were impressed. "All the time we are seeing a better product and, overall, people are making better cheeses," says veteran judge Russell Smith. Formerly a retailer and now a consultant, Smith shares Roberton's enthusiasm for new products such as the fresh buffalo-milk cheeses - milky-sweet mozzarella and ricotta - from Far North Queenland's Vanella dairy.
Both men also applaud the increasing number of interesting cheeses such as complex washed rinds - the smelly-socks end of the cheese board. Also to be welcomed, Smith says, are the experimental efforts of Kris Lloyd from South Australia's Woodside with her eclectic mix of surface-ripened styles, and "the very talented" Victoria Glaetzer from the Barossa Valley Cheese Company, another washed-rind producer.
So there you have it. We are so lucky to be able to access such great produce and artisanal products. Get behind your local Cheesemakers today. It's certainly worth your while and is the SOLE Food alternative to imports.
Barossa Valley Cheese Company. Cellar: 67b Murray Street, Angaston South Australia 5353. Phone: +618 8564 3636,
Fax:+618 8564 3737 Email: email@example.com