One for all the cheese lovers
BY ROS BALDWIN
My name is Ros and I have a weakness for cheese. Most cheeses in fact. But in particular a distinctively sharp and flavourful, matured cheddar. Or a decadent, oozy French style camembert. Soft or hard goats’ cheeses are also a personal favourite. Ok, I’m also pretty fond of a piquant labne and often knock up a batch of marinated labne to have on hand in a cheese emergency. Oh, and the umami of truffled cheddar is to die for… Yes, the struggle is real!
In the Hunter Valley we are incredibly lucky to have exceptional artisan cheese producers. Hunter Belle Dairy Co being a sterling example – and now with a cheese room at Ben Ean, it’s really easy to ‘cheese the day’ and treat yourself (sorry!).
The lovely story behind Hunter Belle Dairy Co began in Muswellbrook 2004 and in 2009 was taken over by the Chesworth family, sixth generation dairy farmers from Denman. Hunter Belle Dairy Co produce unique artisan cheese, hand made using traditional practices purely from the milk of Brown Swiss Cows sourced from a family in Singleton. Since then the company has grown and is now supported by many local businesses and in corner shops all around Singleton, Muswellbrook and Newcastle you can spot a selection of Hunter Belle Cheeses, yoghurt and Brown Swiss milk.
But today I’m up for the full cheese range experience and I didn’t have to travel very far to get it!
Upstairs behind the Ben Ean cellar door you find the very inviting, glassed Hunter Belle Cheese Room. Covid safe practices only allows for 6 guests in the room at one time and I was lucky to arrive and not have to wait too long to go in. The unmistakable aroma of cheese gets you the second you walk through the door, then you lay eyes on the display fridges loaded with all the different Hunter Belle cheeses and a range of handmade fudge and gelato churned from Hunter Belle milk and butter! And behind you, the shelves are stocked with a tempting range of cheeseboards and giftware. My kind of shop indeed.
The delightful staff will talk you through a free cheese tasting of 4 cheeses and I took their recommendations and left with the incredible triple cream Briebelle, some Cheddarbelle and Ol’ Smokey. So much deliciousness to choose from! I saved the gelato and fudge to ensure another trip back, but somehow a lovely wooden handled hard cheese knife also made its way home with me.
I’m sure by now you may know that I am very happy to share a glass of red, an interesting cheese plate and a good chat with friends. And ordinarily I am a big advocate for not overcomplicating fabulous produce. But sometimes there is a way to elevate even really good cheese. Welcome, baked camembert, into my life. This very simple masterpiece will have you delving in for more, so be warned! It could be called the modern cheese fondue, but with the spice and crunch and sweetness of honey – it’s oh so much more! And while it is easy to make a batch of dukkah, I know a girl that makes a fine version under the Wine House Kitchen label which is just down the road from Hunter Belle Cheese. Fancy that…