28 November 2007

beautiful stench

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: sales@barossacheese.com.au


Vida said...

Sticky, my favourite at the moment is Holy Goat Veloute... even Alana (17) LOVED it, even though at first she thought it "smelt"... we cannot get enough, I am so pleased her palete is developing... it took me 40 years and a trip to Dordogne to realise what a dream good cheese is!!! Vida x x x

thanh7580 said...

I love durian and the smellier the better. However, I'm still developing my taste for smelly cheese. I still can't stand that blue cheese stuff. As for goats cheese, I don't mind a mild one. As for the goats cheeses with the ash on them, uuuugggghhhhh, they really really stink and I can't handle that strong taste yet.

Ran said...

I love washed rind cheeses. I am going to have to try this one thanks! I am a fan of the king island washed rind actually. asnd i recently tried a mornington goats cheese with a washed rind that was really good (my partner thought is was a bit too smelly though)

stickyfingers said...

Wow Vida - you have a budding gourmand, excellent. Holy Goat products are lovely, andin fact Will Studd likes them so much he took them to a Cheese Show in Europe this year.

Thanh - I get it, sometimes as a Eurasian I wonder about the different nuances between Asian and Caucasian palates.

Ran - I am now on a mission to try as many Australian washed rind cheeses as I can.

Anonymous said...

Wooo....is this as "stinky" as durian or blue cheese? I like them both! So I'm guessing I will like this too.

Vida said...

I am so pleased, those girls do an amazing job making cheese. Vida x

grocer said...

i'm not great with anything stinky, it's one of the downsides to having a sensitive "nose" which is a real shame at times.

having said that, I think the hunter valley washed rind is lovely and more delicate on the nose than others, but would that affect its richness? did you try it at the banquet?

Anonymous said...

Sticky, most washed rind cheeses are usually washed in brine or wine.
Some Aussie faves of mine are:
Mungarbareens(Once made by Habberfield dairy now owned by Parmalat
King River & Milawa Gold(Milawa cheese factory)
1792(Bruny Island Cheese Co)
But my all time favourite washed rind is a Pont L'Eveque & a Talleggio

stickyfingers said...

Tigerfish - I would say that washed rinds are even more pungent than the blue cheeses. Roquefort and Gorgonzola to my mind are smelly but have a sweetness that washed rinds lack.

Grocer - the Hunter Valley one was lovely, but as you say, more delicate, so on my own personal Richter Scale it didn't completely rock my world.

Gobbler - thanks it was remiss of me not to be more specific in my description of production. Tallegio I love too, especially melted with some Swiss Brown Mushrooms and thyme on chunky toast.

We're headed to see the Hoodoo Gurus at Rutherglen next year, so while we're there and the boys are playing golf I'm going to immerse myself in all Millawa has to offer.

Bruny I gather is your local? I've just bought some Bruny oysters to shuck tonight...mmmm. Off to Toofeys tomorrow night for more things fishy.

Anonymous said...

Hoodoo Gurus, what a most underrated band!
I saw them a few years ago at the Prince with their orignal lineup(minus James Baker of course) but with Brad (the Monarch's) Shepard, years after their final 'Blue Cave' tour. It was desserted.
I have always thought that Dave Faulkener is one of the best pop songmeisters around & that he hasn't been fully recognised yet-Maybe it'll come soon.

Bruny Island oyers are MY FAVOURITE OYSTERS! I am spoilt as I know that his oysters are literally just out of the water. I find it difficult to partake in any others as I know they aint just outta the water!

The Bruny Island Chees Co has just re-opened with some really exciting cheese. Nick & Leonie have just opened a fantastic cheesery with wood burning oven which they'll be baking their own sourdoughs.
We go camping on Bruny at Cloudy Bay, there a national park camping ground thats onlt accessable after a couple of k's along the pounding beach, its remarkable. You have to bring your own water & firewood if you want a fire!
I heart Bruny.