Cheese is one of those everyday foods we enjoy without ever really knowing how it is made. We know there’s a cow at one end of the production line and a wide variety of delicious, soft, hard and blue cheeses at the other – but what goes on in between is a bit of a mystery to most of us! The Hunter Valley Cheese company has been making fine cheeses for many years and has adopted an open-door policy so the public can see exactly how it is done – from heating the milk to destroy bacteria, to adding cultures and enzymes, to cutting and shaping the curd and much more. This you can learn from just a quick visit to their website.
A visit to the business itself, located in Muswellbrook, is a real education. Not only can you see the cheese-making processes in action, but there is also a life-size fibre-glass cow called “Bessie” sitting in their café which can be hand-milked!
The education theme is also present in their shop in Pokolbin – in the middle of the Hunter Valley wine region – where you can learn all about pairing of cheeses to different varieties of wine.
The company has been refining its cheeses since 2004 when the cheese-making business was started by the Chesworth family who had been milking cows on the banks of the Hunter River for over 100 years. In 2007 the family decided to stop farming after several droughts had taken their toll and switched to the cheese business full-time and since that time the business has blossomed.
Publicity for the business was given a real boost when Jason and Annie Chesworth – the second generation of family cheese-makers – made a name for themselves as contestants on My Kitchen Rules in 2014 proving themselves to be worthy contenders with their cooking prowess and earning the nick-name “Mr and Mrs Cheese”! Some of their recipes can be found on their website here
Hunter Belle Cheeses come in many different varieties – soft, hard and blue – with some unusual specialities such as the Herb and Garlic Fetabelle which won three silver medals at the Royal Sydney Dairy Show in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Hunter Belle also supplies cheese wedding cakes which has been a growing trend over the past 5 years or so.
This unusual alternative to the traditional wedding cake can be delivered overnight as far away from the Hunter as Melbourne and Brisbane, although the tower of cheese, fruits and toppings needs to be assembled after transportation otherwise the delivery might not be as photogenic as this one here!
You can buy Hunter Belle Cheeses online or you can come to the St Ives Food and Wine Festival and try before you buy!