Friday, September 6, 2013

#38 - Onawe Mature Cheddar from Barry's Bay

Whilst I was on my trip around the upper South Island in July, I visited the  Barry's Bay cheese factory, nestled beside the water on the Banks Peninsula. Apart from the beautiful location, they make some good cheese.  I was able to try (or take away to try later) most of the Barry's Bay cheeses, and was even lucky enough to be shown through the factory by friendly factory manager Andrew.  It was good to see the traditional open cheese vats and cheese making equipment still being used in the way Cheddar used to be made all over New Zealand.  And even a vintage boiler is lovingly maintained to keep the hot water and steam supply running.

Barry's Bay and the Akaroa Harbour

But anyway, to the cheese.  One of the better cheeses tasted was the Onawe mature Cheddar.  This cheese is made in January and February (the middle of the milking season) when the milk is at it's best and most consistent.  The recipe is the same as the cloth bound Cheddar also made at Barry's Bay, although the Onawe is then ripened as 20kg blocks in vacuum sealed plastic bags like most other Cheddar made in New Zealand.  After two years of maturing, the blocks are tasted and cut for retail packaging.

The cheese had a good waxy Cheddar texture, and there were a few small crystals in it - in keeping with its age and flavour development.  The sample was a little bitter for our liking, however it was an improvement over the Extra Tasty Cheddar also tried at the same time.  There was also a slight sweetness and a background savoury/vegetable flavour.  In comparison to the Extra Tasty, the Onawe had more flavour overall and was creamier.  Apart from the bitterness, which many people may not pick up (admittedly my wife is very sensitive to it, and we are used to "looking" for it when we evaluate or judge cheeses) the Onawe was pretty well balanced and most people would find it to be a delicious cheese.  I'm sure it would get demolished pretty quickly as part of a cheeseboard with some chutney or savoury jam.
Onawe Mature Cheddar.  Disclaimer - the scruffy appearance and packaging are not characteristic of Barry's' Bay products, this was an off-cut sample given to me for tasting. 

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