Red Hill's tasty cheese

By Michael Harden
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Red Hill Cheese produce distinctive, handcrafted regional cheeses to complement wines from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Red Hill Cheese produce distinctive, handcrafted regional cheeses to complement wines from the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©Visions of Victoria]

Jan and Trevor Brandon have removed all references to French cheese from their small cheese factory’s tasting room. The walls are now filled with photos of their own product and of dishes local chefs have created using Red Hill Cheese. It seems the Brandons, after many awards and much acclaim, have finally understood the quality they are achieving in their factory in the forest does not need the light of reflected glory to prove itself. That proof is all in the tasting.

Jan and Trevor moved to their beautiful Red Hill property about 25 years ago and have kept much of the block, down the end of a picturesque winding dirt road, forested with native bush. Cheese making started as a hobby for Trevor but when he began taking cheeses to friends’ places, people loved what he was doing so much that the pressure started to build for him to do it “properly”. When he began getting requests from winery restaurants for his cheese it became apparent that they could even make a living from his hobby.

“It got to the stage where we thought that if we didn’t do it we would regret it,” says Jan. “So when the last of the kids finished uni, Trevor retired from teaching and we set this up.”

Red Hill Cheese is a very small, artisan cheese factory that processes around 50 000 litres of milk a year to make about five tonnes of cheese. Compare this with other boutique cheese makers in Australia that process 5000 litres a day or the big gorgonzola factories in Italy that go through 20 000 litres of milk an hour and you understand how small an operation Red Hill Cheese is. And that is the way the Brandons – and their customers – like it.

All of the sixteen cheeses the Brandons make are hand made and the milk they use – organic cows milk from Gippsland and goats milk from nearby Main Ridge – is pasteurised at ten degrees lower than milk in the big cheese factories. Trevor Brandon says that this preserves the flavour of the milk and encourages the cheese to continue to ripen and for “something a bit different” to happen flavour wise.

The other major plank of the philosophy behind Red Hill Cheese is to make cheese that compliments the local wines. Thus the mild, semi hard Portsea Picnic goat cheddar has been tailored to suit the local chardonnays while their award winning, wonderfully pongy Misty Valley soft goat cheese is brilliant with a dry sparkling wine. Trevor Brandon has even worked with local chefs to create one-off cheeses for special events or particular wine vintages, always interested in the region and in pushing the boundaries of his cheese making.

Though Red Hill Cheese is a little easier to buy away from the factory these days, making the trip down the dirt road is still the best way to obtain one of Trevor and Jan’s cheeses and to get a feel for some of the unique food activity now happening on the Mornington Peninsula.

© Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

Red Hill Cheese, 81 William Road, Red Hill, Victoria (03) 5989 2035

Regions

  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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January 12th, 2010
 
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