Pyengana Cheese

Pyengana Dairy is both a cheese factory and dairy that is around 25 minutes drive from St Helens up here on the north east coast of Tasmania. After a busy morning shopping on Saturday we headed out there to buy its famous cloth bound cheddar.

The cheese John had discussed with them on a previous visit (without me) had been set aside with his name on it. The milkmaid had suggested a particular age that might suit but he wanted me to check it and because we have been so busy it took us over two weeks to return. We were amazed but grateful it was kept for him.

After a little chip or two off the block we made up our mind that this particular age cheddar was ideal. These smaller rounds weigh around 1.2kg and this one cost $36.00. Pyengana present a good tasting table with cheese samples representing all levels of maturity.  There are some herb ‘flavoured’ cheddars but they are not for us. Handmade cheddar usually has a distinctive crumbly texture and we found Pyengana’s cheese indeed has a lovely open texture and is a little flaky as befits handmade farmhouse cheeses.

The cheddar can be released around six months, but develops into a far more interesting cheese if cellared to twelve months or more. The large 12kg cheese rounds will mature more slowly so buying the smaller rounds expect them to mature more quickly. For tourists there is a viewable window into the cheese making area but we never seem to visit when it is in full swing. Anyway I have made cheese at the DPI (Dept of Primary Industries) workshops in Brisbane so am not breaking my neck to see it. But it may be of interest to cheese loving tourists.

So few cheese makers around the world age cheddar in cloth anymore. Brooklynguy’s Wine and Food Blog is adamant it makes the finest cheddars —“The best English Cheddar is aged merely in cloth, the same cloth that lines the molds and prevents loss of curd during pressing. This traditional ‘bandage,’ left in place, keeps the new cheese from sagging outward and provides a barrier against flies, once an important consideration.”

It requires skill in the cheese cellar and it is time consuming and expensive — “For the cheese producer, the great advantage to vacuum-sealing in plastic is that it eliminates all the turning, rubbing, and brushing of traditional aging.”

Cloth-bound cheddar loses water to evaporation, about 12% of its weight. The concentration, the breathability of the cloth, and the surface molds on the cheese produce complex flavors — “We made the same cheese in a vacuum-seal…, and compared the two. You’re just not getting the same intensity of flavor.”

So you can see why Pyengana cloth bound cheddar has my full support. Just another note on wine with cheese. My French cooking school teacher in Paris, Paule of Promenades Gourmande serves her cheeses with a dry white wine, not a red and it works for me with this cheddar.

In this area there are waterfall attractions. If you plan a visit here and it is a good weather day, keep going until you find St Columba Falls. They are dramatic, plunging nearly 90 metres/295 feet from the Mount Victoria foothills to the South George River valley.

Pyengana vanilla bean ice cream

Just popping back to the shop for a moment. We also bought Pyengana’s vanilla bean ice cream. At this point I can definitely say its flavour is on top of the ratings but it was just a little icy which set me looking at the use by date. 29 March 2010. Ours will definitely not be keeping until then.

We added to our shopping cart a jar of Pyengana house made peach chutney. The label reveals rhubarb and spices are added but there is a certain spice that makes it rise above the rest. I cannot identify it yet but I will.


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