Showcasing Bena Raw; a just-released raw sheep’s milk cheese

Words & images by Richard Cornish

Bena Raw is a just-released raw sheep’s milk cheese from Burke and Bronwyn Brandon at Prom Country Cheese near Korumburra in South Gippsland. It results from years of experimentation, hard yakka, and gaining the trust of Dairy Food Safety Australia (DFSA), who regulates the cheese industry.

The manufacture of raw milk cheeses is incredibly tightly controlled in Australia. DFSA makes it incredibly difficult to create one. Cheese needs to be aged for six months and fit within a strict parameter of moisture and pH levels. The regulations are so stringent that it is, ironically, easier to buy an imported raw milk cheese than it is to get a locally made one.

Thankfully there are hard-core cheesemakers like Burke and Bronwyn, who have undergone the labyrinthine and kafkaesque nature of government bureaucracy to produce this exquisite hard cheese.

It starts with the diverse pastures the Brandons grow on their beautiful property at Moyarra in the Strzelecki Ranges. Here they have developed their own crossbreed of sheep with tough hooves to cope with the wet winters. In the summer of 2020, they embarked on this new cheese. The herd of 150 sheep was milked once a day, and their still warm milk was carefully taken to the cheese room. It is important to note that the Brandons don’t use pumps that could break up the fat structure of the milk – which causes lipase and a less than fresh flavour in cheese.

Vegetarian rennet is added, the curds cut and stirred, and naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, as well as added bugs, turn the lactose in the curds to lactic acid. At the same time, naturally occurring bacteria, enzymes, and microbes start to break down fat and protein. The curds are drained and cheddared – which means they are milled and stretched – which helps more lactose to be turned into lactic acid. The curds are hooped, pressed, turned, and the cheeses let at 12°C for 5 months and then matured at a cooler 9°C until now. During that time, their rinds were coated with morge, a salty mixture of cheese cultures that helped develop the rind and mature the cheese.

Bena Raw has a peachy-hued rind thanks to the brevibacterium in the morge. The texture is hard, slightly crumbling, but pleasingly supple in the mouth. Cut the cheese, and the air is filled with the aroma of fresh milk, the cheese inside a pleasing creamy marble with tiny flecks of cheese crystals. The aroma of sheep milk gives way to the aromas you expect to find in aged cheese. There are those lovely floral high notes you find in comté, some dark, sexy, funky aromas that give way to a hint of barnyard, and then the lovely meaty flavours that you find in great aged cheeses.

A beautiful cheese to star on a cheese board and wonderful with a big blousy chardonnay or even a golden ale, as Burke prefers. Bena Raw is a triumph for this cheesemaking family and something that Australian cheese lovers should be proud of.


THE DETAILS

What: Bena Raw
When: This week
Where: Prom Country Cheese Cellar Door, Prom Coast Food Collective, Ripe Cheese, K-SEIN Fromagerie
More Info: Prom Country Cheese

We wish to acknowledge the Bunurong people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Granite: 12 month cheddar style cheese from Long Paddock

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

They say patience is its own reward. We have been watching these beautiful big wheels of cheese slowly mature over the past 12 months. Every time we visit Long Paddock Cheese in Castlemaine we have asked, “are they ready yet?”. And now Granite is ready.

Granite is a cheddar style cheese that has been wrapped in cloth and sealed with lard to allow the 8kg cheese wheels to slowly mature. This method also helps the rind develop a complex community of moulds, yeasts and bacteria that help promote the complex flavours within the cheese.

‘A lot of cheesemaking is about the development of micro-organisms’. says French-born cheesemaker Ivan Larcher.

Ivan and his wife and fellow cheesemaker, Julie Larcher, relocated to Castlemaine from Limoges in France two years ago to found Long Paddock Cheese and cheesemaking school. Despite COVID, their cheesemaking school has been a run-away success with classes booking out shortly after opening to sales. Long Paddock cheeses have met with similar acclaim gracing the tables of some of Victoria’s best restaurants and sold through topline cheesemongers, as well as factory sales through the Long Paddock store in the Mill in Castlemaine.

Granite is a triumph of cheesemaking. It is named for the granite that dominates the hills around Castlemaine and refers to the colour and texture of the rind, a stony looking grey. Cheddar cheeses undergo a technique known as cheddaring in which the curds are milled and stretched which leads to the distinct cheddar texture. Granite has a semi-hard, dense yet crumbly interior that is daffodil yellow in colour, and moist and buttery on the tongue. Its flavour is complex with grassy and buttery aromas, a hint of earth, a clean line of acid and long satisfying umami deliciousness.

Grill it, put it in a toasty, serve it in a ploughman’s platter, put it on a cheeseboard or do the English thing and eat it alongside a fruity eccles cake. This is a great iteration of the famous Cheddar cheese that is distinctively its own beautiful creation.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Cloth bound cheddar cheese
WHERE: Available from Maker & Monger, Prahran Market, Ripe Cheese, Queen Victoria Market, K-sein Fromagerie at South Melbourne Market, Harper & Blohm, Brunswick and Alphington, Abbotsford and Bendigo Farmers Markets and Long Paddock, Castlemaine
WHEN: From April 4
MORE INFO: Long Paddock Cheese

We wish to acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Empty Shelves: Farmers’ Markets Vs Super Markets

Words by Richard Cornish

Chris Hains stands in the middle of the Castlemaine Farmers Market. Around him are stalls stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, lamb, pork, goat, cereals, cheese, nuts, oil and other fresh produce. ‘We have no supply issue here at the farmers market,’ he says.

Chris is the manager of the Castlemaine and Bendigo Farmers’ Markets and sits on the board of Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association. In the light of recent empty shelves in supermarkets he and his team posted images of trestle tables groaning with freshly picked bounty to highlight the fact that farmers’ markets and other small and diverse food distribution systems have not been affected by COVID. The spread of the highly contagious omicron COVID virus has meant staff in large food production facilities, distribution centres, transport businesses and supermarkets themselves have been home recovering or isolating as close contacts.

‘We have a food supply system that is organised around a small number of stakeholders, such as supermarkets and fast food businesses with labour hire companies sitting behind them,’ says Dr. Kelly Donati, Senior Lecturer Food Systems and Gastronomy William Angliss Institute.

‘It is an unjust and inflexible system based on a casualised workforce. When it is confronted with problems beyond its control – like a pandemic or natural disaster it cracks under pressure,’ she explains.

Dr. Kelly points to the Brisbane floods when food supply through supermarkets failed yet smaller suppliers could make it through the flooded melee to feed people. ‘We need to have a more diverse food distribution system that includes more local green grocers, community supported agriculture, veggie box schemes, and of course, farmers’ markets,’ says Kelly. ‘They are responsive to change and rejig their businesses rapidly and constantly. There has been a big shift to these during COVID and more people are using these diverse systems.’

‘We are making all our markets weekly,’ says Miranda Sharp from Melbourne Farmers’ Market. ‘It is important for food sovereignty (to have a) network of alternative food systems. So it was obvious that we had to open Abbottsford and Carlton farmers markets weekly,’ she says. ‘They have fallen in line with our Alphington and Coburg weekly markets. It brings certainty to the local community that there will be a market every week and farmers have the certainty of weekly distribution of their produce.’ Abbottsford and Carlton farmers’ markets will run weekly from February.

Back in Castlemaine Chris points out to one of the stallholders, Colin from Blackwood Orchards in Harcourt. ‘He picked those cherries early this morning, put them on the back of his ute and will sell out in a few hours,’ says Chris. ‘That is 10km of food miles and the cherries are picked for ripeness, and not so they can sit in a truck and be driven a 1000 km from Young in NSW, stored in a coolstore and then sit on a supermarket shelf.’

When asked about the idea that farmers’ markets are more costly than supermarkets, Chris Googles the price of cherries. ‘Six dollars and fifty cents for 300g at the supermarket,’ says Chris. ‘Our mate Colin sells them for $14 a kilogram in a paper bag. Fruit and veg in season is cheaper, tastier and will last longer if you buy from a farmers’ market over the supermarket.’

When it comes to meat and chicken Chris says that small farmers can’t compete on the economy of scale, but he argues that meat from an ethically raised flock or herd is better for the animals, the land and for the taste and texture of the final product. ‘That said, COVID has ripped through the abattoirs and really affected their capacity. The smaller beef and lamb farmers are the first to get bumped so some of our stallholders have been affected to a degree. But there is still plenty of fresh food to fill the fridge not just in Bendigo or Castlemaine but all the other farmers markets around the state.’


View a list of upcoming regional markets here.

The Peaks petite providore opens in Bright

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

It takes a certain kind of passion to make the move from the city to Victoria’s Alpine region to make cheese. Luke Armstrong and Vanessa Lipscombe are just those kind of people.

They established their micro dairy The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers in 2018 in Myrtleford and have been plugging away making some of Victoria’s most sought-after cheese ever since. They source their milk from a single local farm in the Kiewa Valley for maximum freshness with one goal in mind – to create the best cheese possible.

Previously their range of cheese was only available through selected cheesemongers, farmers markets, some wineries and restaurants. Recently, demand has grown for their organic cows and goats milk cheese so much that they’ve just opened themselves a providore in the heart of Bright.

‘It’s actually kind of hidden away down a little arcade. We call it a petite providore,’ explains Vanessa. ‘Because I’ve been on the farmer’s market circuit for the last two or three years, a lot of the stuff I stock is from people I know from the market. So, I’m assured they’re a small producer.’

I’ve got the local stuff – olive oil, terrines, pâté – and then I’ve got other fancy stuff like canned fish from Spain.

Sounds like the perfect spot for a road trip stop to hunter-gather yourself a grazing platter. They can organise gift hampers too, featuring a selection of locally produced treats and, of course, some sensational cheese. And if you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to chat with the cheesemaker himself.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers Shop
WHERE: Shop 5/4 Ireland Street, Bright
WHEN: Wednesday – Sunday 10:30am – 5 pm
MORE INFO:  instagram.com/thepeakscheese

We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Choose your own adventure: Exploring the You Yangs & Moorabool Valley

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

They say life is all about balance, a bit of yin with your yang, so to speak. We all know that getting outside to blow away the cobwebs is not only good for the body, but it’s also good for the soul. We’ve rounded up a host of activities in the Moorabool Valley and You Yangs area to get you out and about and sweetened it with some treats for afterwards.

Walking MelbourneYou Yangs Regional Park

You’ve definitely seen them from across the bay, or perhaps from the city’s outskirts, those hills on the horizon. The You Yangs (Wurdi Youang) are a group of 24km long granite outcrops an hour southwest of Melbourne near the town of Little River. Time to pay them a visit!

Topping out at 319m is the park’s highest point, Flinders Peak. Those who make the 3.2km one-hour return walk will be well-rewarded with stunning views across the volcanic plains back towards Melbourne or south to Geelong.

From the eastern lookout, the eagle-eyed will also spy the geoglyph of Bunjil, creator spirit of the Wadawurrung people, traditional custodians of the region. Artist Andrew Rogers utilised 1500 tonnes of granite and limestone rock to form the wedge-tail eagle geoglyph, in recognition of the Wadawurrung people’s connection to the land.

Iconic Australian painter Fred Williams was known to spend much time painting en plein air in the region. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own masterpiece?

Bike Riding MelbourneIf you’re the type who likes to get the blood really pumping, you might like to bring your mountain bike and hit some of the 50km of purpose-built trails across two dedicated zones. Maybe horse riding, orienteering, rock-climbing, abseiling or bushwalking is more your speed? If so, there are dozens of trails from the family-friendly through to the more challenging to choose from.

If that all sounds a little exhausting, you could always try your hand at some birdwatching or perhaps a gentle stroll to one of the nine designated picnic areas.

The You Yangs Regional Park is open every day from 7am and closing at 5pm (6pm from Daylight Savings). Access to the park from the Princes Freeway is signposted via Lara. Facilities include picnic areas (barbecues, tables and toilets available) as well as drinking water available from the Visitors Centre.

Serendip Sanctuary Wildlife Park

Melbourne wildlife
© Barbara Dawn

Only 10 minutes further south is the Serendip Sanctuary. Soak in the serenity or explore some of the 250ha of wetlands and grassy woodlands. Experience your own close encounter with some native wildlife on one of the popular and wheelchair-accessible nature trails. Spot a mob of emus, Eastern Grey kangaroos or even a Tawny Frogmouth from one of the many bird hides.

With an emphasis on education, the sanctuary offers a Junior Rangers Program for families during school holidays as well as downloadable DIY activity sheets. Discover how some of Victoria’s most threatened species are being protected at the sanctuary’s education facility, old school and screen-free.

Serendip Sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day & Good Friday from 8am until 4pm. Facilities include picnic areas, barbecues, tables, toilets and drinking water.

Brisbane Ranges National Park

National Parks MelbourneDrive half an hour west and you’ve arrived at Brisbane Ranges National Park and Steiglitz Historic Park. Ten points if you time your visit for spring’s magnificent wildflower displays including the rarely seen Velvet Daisy-bush and Brisbane Ranges Grevillea.

But first let’s start the adrenaline racing with some rock-climbing, abseiling, horse riding, kayaking/rafting or bushwalking (trails range from a couple of hours to several days). Camping areas with tank water and pit toilets available, bookings required. Picnic areas include wood barbecues, tables and toilets.

As with any visit to the great outdoors, best to check forecasted weather as well as location conditions. Visit Parks Victoria for more information.

Reckon you’ve earned a reward or two?

Farmers Market MelbourneFortunately, an area so rich in outdoor activities is also blessed with a cornucopia of food and drink choices.

Golden Plains Farmers Market is held the first Saturday of every month and is the ideal place to begin. If you miss that, no matter; the region is well placed with a slew of farm gates and providores.

Moorabool Valley Chocolate Pick up some handmade truffles made with the freshest ingredients from this family-owned small business.

Meredith Dairy The Cameron family have been responsibly and sustainably farming sheep and goats since the early 1990s, creating one of Australia’s most iconic farmhouse cheeses which are now exported to the world.

Inverleigh Bakehouse An old-school country bakery is a thing of beauty and this converted 1868 homestead doesn’t disappoint with artisan breads as well as tempting pastries and cakes.

Clyde ParkBread cheese and chocolate – tick! Now you need something to drink. Thankfully this cool climate wine region offers boutique wineries, renowned cellar doors and winery restaurants both large and small, so you’re sure to find one to suit.

Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro Step into the cellar door and secure a spot by the fire before tasting through their award-winning wines whilst taking in sweeping views over the Moorabool Valley. This family-friendly bistro is open daily offering everything from a quick nibble through to a three-course meal.

Del Rios Wines Enjoy a long, lazy lunch centred around their estate-grown produce (including Black Angus beef) complemented by an extensive wine portfolio.

No doubt this has whet your appetite to explore the region. You’ll only wonder what took you so long.

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

The whimsical foodie-haven St Andrews Collective is now open

Images Supplied

Lovers of local produce (and cottagecore), prepare to be delighted. There’s a new fairy tale-esque provedore gracing the bustling township of St Andrews. It’s focus? All the interesting, unique products you won’t find anywhere else.

Perched on top of a grassy slope, overlooking the Queenstown Bushland Reserve, the newly minted St Andrews Collective has swung open its doors to locals and travellers alike, selling produce that’s equal parts delicious and delightful.

The storefront is curated and owned by St Andrews local Nicole Milella whose career in hospitality spans almost a decade. After several months of planning during the lockdown period, Milella has brought together a sumptuous selection of nibbles, dry goods and even handmade and vintage homewares to please even the most selective shopper – all from producers less than thirty minutes away.

Lining the wooden shelves are loose-leaf teas from the Yarra Valley Tea Co, artisan cheese courtesy of Jack Holman at Stone and Crow (vegan cheese included), rich preserves and cordials made by Spurrell Foraging, herbs and spices, olive oils and so much more. Milella has even curated her own cheese boards which can be purchased and happily eaten just outside, in a shady spot on the grass.

If you forgot to bring a picnic blanket, don’t worry, Milella has also got a selection of vintage picnic rugs and baskets for sale. There’s even dried native flowers and hand-thrown pottery ready for the picking if you fancy making a really Insta-worthy spread.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the perfect provedore without some kind of wine involved and this is where St Andrews Collective truly shines. Situated right next door is Punch Room Wines, a killer local cellar door, who have teamed up with the shop to create cheese and wine pairings. Guests can grab a cheese board, walk into the cellar door for a glass of red or white and enjoy everything St Andrews has on offer.

For now, St Andrews Collective is open on Saturdays only, but with tentative plans to open on Sundays as well. Occasional fresh produce courtesy of a local market gardener will be available, as well as unique fresh goods from Spurrell Foraging.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: St Andrews Collective
WHERE: 10 Scott Street, St Andrews
WHEN: Saturdays 9am-3pm
MORE INFO: St Andrews Collective


	

Praise Cheesus, there’s a prospective “cheese train” coming for Geelong

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Japan, 1958 – the world’s first conveyer belt sushi, colloquially known as a “sushi train”, opens in Osaka. It is an instant hit and copied in restaurants all around the world.

Geelong, 2021 – the much-loved sushi train model shape shifts into something even more wonderful: a cheese train. It opens on Pakington Street and the locals go wild.

Okay, we may be trying to write history here, but we could be very close to the truth. The Geelong-based cheese dealer Splatters have lodged a planning application with the City of Greater Geelong to open a fully licensed restaurant on Pakington St. Their crowning jewel? Cheese served on a conveyer belt.

In what would be an Australian first, the restaurant will serve a huge variety of gourmet cheeses in exactly the same manner sushi does, as well as contain a restaurant space and cheese garden. If that doesn’t sound like utopia, we don’t know what does.

The bricks and mortar store will be the first of its kind for Splatters, who currently operate as an online catering business and from their food truck “Splattervan.” If plans go ahead, they will be setting up shop in one of the city’s most popular strips: the heart of Pakington Street at the former pharmacy opposite Geelong West Library.

Unafraid of the night-life Pakington is famous for, the cheese train and bar will be a party-starter, with proposed operating hours from 11am to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other days of the week, cheese aficionados can get their fix from 11am til 11pm. And while we haven’t seen any drinks lists yet, we’re sure the wine pairings will be on point.

Late-night cheese and wine? It don’t get any cheddar than that.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Splatters
WHEN: Opening soon
MORE INFO: Splatters

Say cheese! Long Paddock Cheese shop opens up in Castlemaine

Images Supplied

If there’s one thing we love at One Hour Out more than anything else, it’s cheese. Parmesan, dofenoir, manchego… whatever the shape, style or make, we are here for it. And the good news is, the folks at ‘Long Paddock Cheese’ are here for us, too.

Popping up this week at The Mill in Castlemaine, ‘Long Paddock Cheese’ is offering fresh, artisan cows-milk cheese for all the cheese tragics out there. Oh and milk, yogurt and cream will be added to the menu soon, making it your one-stop-shop for all things dairy.

Lovingly crafted by French cheesemakers Ivan and Julie Larcher, each block, wedge and wheel has been perfected after months of practice at their soon-to-launch “cheese university”. Meaning not only are they honing their skills for our cheesy indulgence, but also for our cheesy education.

In what will be a world first, the crew are set to open a privately funded artisan cheesemaking school, aptly titled ‘The Cheese School’ come January. Under the guidance of the Larcher’s, regular folks and professionals alike can learn the practical and theoretical aspects of cheesemaking. Students will leave with a newfound appreciation for the dairy delights, as well as (you guessed it) their very own cheese.

The team, headed up by director Alison Lansley, hope to tackle the mass-produced cheddar monopoly currently at play in the Australian market and bring back the love of locally crafted fromage. Certainly, sharing the knowledge of good cheese can only be a good thing for both the industry and our taste buds. 

Course guidelines and timetables are set to be released very soon, but for now you can do your research over at the Long Paddock Cheese shop. Buy a couple of blocks, taste a couple more, and you’ll be floating off to cheesy heaven. We’ll see you there.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Long Paddock Cheese opening
WHERE: The Mill, Castlemaine – 1/9 Walker Street
WHEN: Now
MORE INFO: The Cheese School


	

Movida tour of the High-Country

The Victorian High-country is full of a diverse range of small-scale farms supplying a regular supply of quality produce to Melbourne.

We invited key chefs and sommeliers from Movida group to tour the region with the aim of sourcing new ingredients for their restaurants.