It is just possible that I may be a little biased, but as far as I’m concerned South Australia punches well above it’s weight when it comes to exceptional food production. Two separate, but hugely exciting, announcements over the last week or so are proof of this.
First up, local Adelaide Hills cheese producers Udder Delights have announced the creation of Australia’s first ever raw cow’s milk blue cheese approved for public consumption. Developed after much research, by cheese maker Saul Sullivan, King Saul Raw Blue Cheese comes from a hand-made process and has the ability to mature for more than twice as long as other blue vein cheeses, thus maximising taste, flavour complexities and rich characteristics. Saul is keen to put Australian cheese making on the international map and put himself on a very steep learning curve in order to produce this unique cheese. “King Saul is a very special creation, but it didn’t come easy,” said Mr Sullivan, who recalls how everyone he mentioned his plan to scoffed at the idea.
The issue of live, raw milk cheeses has been a tricky one in this country with claims that cheese made from unpasteurised milk can be potentially hazardous. The simple fact is that many renowned and immensely popular European cheeses are made with unpasteurised milk and have been for centuries. The act of pasteurising milk in order to make it virtually bacteria free, also robs it of any connection it may have with it’s terroir and Australian cheese lovers argue that we are unnecessarily depriving ourselves of the opportunity to produce extraordinarily unique cheeses because of this. Legislation on raw milk and it’s products is (some say unreasonably) tough in Australia with only two or three other cheese makers legally able to produce a raw milk cheese. (The fact that one of these is another Adelaide Hills cheese maker, Woodside Cheese Wrights Kris Lloyd, simply validates my opening sentence, really!)
Saul says what makes King Saul so special is the Hafnia Alvei bacteria he has managed to isolate, which ensures that the cheese is reflective of the specific region where the milk-producing cows live. This is a non-pathenogenic bacteria (not harmful) that is commonly found in some of the famous food and wine producing regions of France. The milk for this cheese comes from cows whose diet is controlled and, given “the Adelaide Hills are world renowned for their pristine environment, I’m confident that King Saul Raw Milk Blue is the cleanest, most unpolluted cheese on the planet,” he added.
Like a great wine (again, think South Australia’s Penfold Grange) King Saul will continue to improve with age. At the moment it is crumbly and earthy with herb and floral notes, but as it ages over the next three years the cheese will grow richer, softer and buttery. I asked Saul what his ideal match for it would be – no surprises for guessing that he suggests serving it with a very special red wine, or even a great, rich port.
The beautiful packaging is suitably regal and, in keeping with the theme of local terroir, each cheese comes in a locally produced, individually hand-made box, from a craftsman in Hahndorf. Pre-orders are being taken for the cheese now and it can be shipped nationally, but if you want it on your Christmas table you may need to be quick – it’s production is limited.
Still on a cheese theme, the second announcement concerns the previously mentioned Woodside Cheese Wrights Kris Lloyd. Kris has just returned from London and the World Cheese Awards, where she was the only Australian and the first ever South Australian judge on a panel adjudicating 3,000 cheeses from around the world. Excitingly, Woodside Cheese Wrights was awarded a Super Gold for the Kris Lloyd- Artisan, Blend Persian Feta at the awards. One of the judges actually approached Kris later in the evening and said “I didn’t know that was your cheese, it has redefined what is possible with Feta”! Comes as no surprise to me – we devour kilos of the stuff in our house.
So, you’ll excuse me if I puff up just a little with pride at being a South Australian – and now I’m off for a snack. Cheese, I think …