Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cheese of the Month November, Te Mata Irongate

This month I have decided to cover one of my favourite New Zealand cheeses, Irongate the washed rind cheese from Te Mata in the Hawesbay. One of the exciting things about Irongate is that it has grown to be my biggest selling line from Te Mata outstripping the sales of even their brie. This is despite the fact that the washed rind style is a pretty full on acquired taste. Much like I find the fact that the Invercargill Brewing Co sells more stout than lager I find this development to be an extremely encouraging sign about how the New Zealand food market is maturing.

Anyway enough with the ideology, on with the cheese.

Irongate is roughly in the style of a Normandy soft washed rind cheese such as Pont-lEveque, or Livarot. Washed rind means that the surface of the cheese has been wiped or washed with a brine, beer or brandy solution which then creates an environment conducive to the growth of Brevibacterium linens an orange mould which creates an incredibly complex array of fruity, funky yeasty, sometimes vegetal, flavours and aromas.

Irongate is washed with brine and leaves the cheese plant with a firm texture and just the faintest hint of brick coloured mould starting to develop on its rind. Once I receive the cheese I store it for one to two weeks in the climate controlled Fromagerie where the rind turns a deep brick red and the body ripens till it starts to run. The cheese is then cut, wrapped and sold, some customers (like myself) will then store the cheese for another fortnight or so till it’s at its rather intense peak.

When Irongate is young it has a delicate fruity yeasty aroma and rich savoury flavour, as it ages the aroma becomes more cabbage-like, palate more creamy and the flavour sharper. I often serve Irongate at the bar on Thursdays (that’s when the boys come round) with crackers and sweet mango chutney. Strong funky Belgian Ales match it well, although an English Barley Wine or Old Ale makes a good match as well.

I once carried a ½ square of Irongate around in the back of the car on a beer hunting road trip, it took no prisoners, insured there would be no fraternisation with the opposite sex and tasted absolutely amazing when we devoured the last bit.


Anonymous said...

Excellent cheese article! My current favourite is Stinking Bishop
Alas not to be found in NZ but much was consumed by my wife and I on our beer hunting honeymoon!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Stinking Bishop is definitly a cheese I would love to try, anything thats had its rind washed in beer or cider is sure to be interesting.

Anonymous said...

There's no exaggeration in the description of the smell either!

Mary said...

Prisoner jokes aside, who says it couldn't lead to an encounter with the oppposite sex??

photo and details at:

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Yeah maybe its the whole unshaven, un washed boys on a roadtrip thing that repels the ladies, haha.

I actually get asked to supply cheese for wedding cheese cakes 2 or 3 times a year, it seems to be getting more and more common here.