Covered in a rind with an apricot blush these soft, often creamy, washed rind cheeses, first made in European monasteries in the Middle Ages, develop an aroma that can vary from attractively meaty to deliciously stinky. Those meaty overtones made the cheeses a popular source of protein for the monks, who were forbidden from eating meat during the frequent – and lengthy – Catholic fasts. The great washed rind cheeses of Europe include Taleggio, Pont l’Evêque, Port Salut, Limburger, Munster and Epoisses de Bourgogne, many named for the monastic communes where they originated.
They were traditionally made in the first flush of spring as pastures began to flourish after the chill of winter. The curds were hooped into flat broad forms similar to those used for bries and camemberts. As the rind formed they were regularly washed with brine, beer or wine, changing the pH of the rind to encourage the mould Brevibacterium linens to colonise it, rather than the white moulds found in cheeses like camembert. Not only does the bacterium create that attractive pinkish-orange rind, it also helps break down the protein into amino acids that we find really delicious. Washed rind cheeses are excellent with textured white wines, lees-influenced champagne and even German-style wheat beers.
1. Brewer’s Gold
Out in the lush, rolling green hills of South Gippsland is Prom Country Cheese. Their classic washed rind Waratah has been complemented in recent years by this traditional slow-set soft lactic cheese washed daily in Dark Ale from Loch Brewery & Distillery. The rind is ivory to golden, slightly wrinkly; the interior has a rich fudgy texture, smooth creamy mouthfeel and aromas that sit between brassica, freshly baked bread and hints of delicate old-fashioned flowers. promcountrycheese.com.au
2. King River Gold
The Milawa Cheese Company in North East Victoria is one of the pioneers of the renaissance of Australian artisan cheese. This luscious washed rind cheese was one of the first made at the Milawa cheesery when production started in 1988. Today the milk for King River Gold is sourced exclusively from a single Australian Dairy Shorthorn herd, a breed renowned for producing milk most suitable for quality cheese production. The small rounds are washed weekly in brine and develop an apricot-coloured rind around a luscious interior that has a rich, almost smoky, aroma. milawacheese.com.au
Holy Goat is an organic farmhouse goat dairy based in Central Victoria. Cheese aficionados maintain that the team here produce the best cheese in Australia. Their Nectar is a washed rind cheese made with a blend of organic goat’s and cow’s milk (varying by season). It’s a dense round with a peachy rind, some small holes and rich, complex blend of aromas that range from floral to barnyard. holygoatcheese.com