Situated in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia is the salty green pastures of King Island. Baking Business chats to King Island Dairy’s Claire Perry on why this remote location is ideal for producing award-winning blue cheese that is perfect for Australian patisseries.
What makes the King Island climate and ‘Roaring Forties’ winds ideal for dairy farming?
The island’s unique microclimate – high annual rainfall, raging winds and mineral rich soils – makes it a wonderful environment to make cheese. The salt-sprayed grass the cows eat year-round produce uncommonly rich, sweet milk that our expert cheese makers craft into King Island Dairy’s unique cheeses.
Much of the manufacturing process on the Island is done by hand and is, therefore, highly labour intensive.
It takes a whole community to produce King Island Dairy cheese – farmers, milk tanker drivers, cheese makers, wrappers and packers, all working together to ensure our high-quality products are enjoyed by cheese lovers around Australia and the world.
Why is the milk sourced from King Island so special/different?
King Island doesn’t receive any extreme high or low weather temperatures – no frosts or snow and no heatwaves. For farmers this means they can grow grass all year round to feed their cows.
Essential to our cheese making success is our ability to obtain high-quality milk from a handful of these local farms that is delivered fresh to King Island Dairy daily. Our milk tanker travels every day, even on Christmas Day, to pick up milk.
What is the history of your business?
The heritage of King Island Dairy started with the production of butter in 1902, prior to commencing cheese production in 1939. Today we are still manufacturing on the original site at Loorana and make a range of hand-crafted and award-winning white mould, washed rind, blue and cheddar cheeses.
How do you produce blue cheese?
Blue mould spores are added to the milk at the beginning of cheesemaking, and these spores will lay dormant inside the cheese until we perform a maturing task called ‘piercing’ – this is when we allow air into the centre of the cheese by basically spiking them and this allows the moulds to start growing. You will find blue veins of all different sizes and shapes as they weave through any natural crevices within the curd structure, and this is one way we can create different strengths of blue flavours – more veins will mean stronger flavours as the cheese ripens. We nurture the cheese in a humidity and temperature controlled maturing room (for up to eight weeks for our strongest cheese, allowing for enough flavour development). We taste grade all of our cheese before releasing them to be wrapped ready for selling.
What are the different types of blue cheese?
We make a range of blue styles, from mild creamy Lighthouse Blue Brie – that is great if you are a beginner blue cheese eater – through to bold robust blue cheeses, such as Endeavour. We also make a cheese called Roaring Forties; it is matured in a wax coating that delivers a unique rich and fruity flavour and a more creamy texture.
What foods compliment blue cheese?
Blue cheeses are great paired with something sweet to balance out the savoury and salty characteristics. Fresh or dried fruits are great accompaniments, such as muscatels or pears. Honey drizzled over blue is also delicious.
What else should we know about blue cheese?
Our white washed rind and blue cheeses are best eaten ripe for optimum flavour and texture. Use the ‘best before’ as a guide to know when this is and enjoy eating within the two weeks prior to that date. Our cheddar is released when mature, so it can be eaten at any time.
Allow cheese to come to room temperature before serving to allow the flavours and texture to be at their best. Also storage is important – keep your cheese in its original wrapper if possible. If not, wrap it in baking paper and place in a sealed container.