Behind the Rind: Berrys Creek ~ Riverine Blue
Berrys Creek Riverine Blue has recently been named ‘Supreme Artisan’ at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards, a prime example of an Australian cheese maker’s flourishing excellence in producing specialty cheese. Winning a global competition with over 5,500 entries, Barry Charlton and his team are now officially deemed the best artisan cheesemakers in the world.
Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese was established in 2007 by Mr Charlton and his partner Cheryl Hulls, after having worked in the cheese industry refining his skills for 44 years. Despite their humble beginnings selling in local markets, the company now produce around 60 tonnes of cheese a year – while ensuring their quality is not compromised. A big part of maintaining the integrity of their cheese is exclusively providing their product to boutique delicatessens, independent food stores, restaurants, and cafes. This keeps their cheese out of major supermarkets. Additionally, unlike many cheeses that are mass-produced for supermarkets, Berrys Creek does not use the typical additives often found in blue-vein products. These preservatives are found to create a lingering sandiness and artificial acidity in the mouth, something Riverine Blue have steered clear of.
Barry Charlton is a “big believer that quality beats quantity”, emphasising that his company’s success comes down to utilising milk derived from high-quality farmers and cattle, making a “huge difference” to the final product. Quality milk is coupled with the high standards of his team of cheesemakers, their precision with timing and temperature, and always making the cheese by hand.
In order to produce their delicious cheese, milk is pasteurised and then cooled down in vats, before cultures are added to form bacteria that coagulate and set the milk. Once the milk has solidified, it is then cut with a wire slicer and proceeds to endure the ‘healing process’ that shrinks and separates the curds from the whey. A hand-held squeegee is then used to stir and agitate the curds in the vat, and scooped into round, hoop-like shapes to drain away any excess liquid.
The next morning, the coagulated wheel is then turned several times, hand-salted, and taken to the maturation room. Precise airflow, temperature and humidity are vital to create the ultimate conditions for the cheese to age. An interesting part of making blue cheese is the ‘needling’ process. The company uses a robotic needling machine, puncturing approximately 420 holes into the wheel. Mr Charlton says that this process allows “the blue mould to grow because, without the oxygen inside, the blue mould doesn’t like to grow very well”.
This beautiful creamy and buttery cheese is made using 100% Buffalo milk for its fat content and stunning richness. Riverine Blue is slightly sweet and fruity while its blue-green striations offer salt and delicate savouriness. Hints of spice will hit you while not being overpowering. Even the rind of this cheese has a profile of its own – with notes of raw almond and pistachio richness.