One of the world’s most well recognised cheese styles, thanks to their signature holes or “eyes”. Eye cheeses are smooth, supple and much loved for their sweet nutty flavours. First produced in the monasteries and abbeys of Europe, eye cheeses became popular as they travelled well and could be sold abroad.
Eye cheese has been made in Australia since the 1890s when small quantities were available for the local Sydney market. The popularity of these cheeses was created by the European cheesemakers who settled in Australia.
In the 1920s eye cheese was made in southern Queensland. It was made in Tasmania in the 1950s while 1986 saw the establishment of a factory dedicated to making eye cheese in the Albury/Wodonga region.
Eye cheese can be either:
- Hard-cooked cheese such as emmental, gruyere and tilsit. Hard cooked cheeses are heated to around 52°C to remove moisture and harden the curd.
- Semi-cooked cheeses such as raclette, gouda, edam. These cheeses have been heated to around 38°C to release moisture and firm the curd.
With their smooth, satiny and pliable texture, these cheeses have 'eyes' or 'holes' formed in the body of the cheese during maturation. The eyes are created by gas producing bacteria, Propionibacterium Shermanii, which generate carbon dioxide during a two to four week period in warm maturing rooms at around 20°C. Regular turning of the cheese during maturation aids the even distribution of the eyes.
Eye cheeses differ significantly in flavour depending on the style, ageing and rind type. Some have washed rinds which impart complex barnyard flavours into the cheese while others are waxed and very mild and sweet in flavour. Most eye cheeses have a recognisable and characteristic sweet, nutty flavour.
Selection and Storage
- Look for cheeses that are supple and satiny in texture, free from dryness.
- Choose cheeses that are free from cracks.
- Eyes should be shiny, but not sweaty or wet.
- Eye cheeses are fabulous for melting, try melting into pasta bakes, in a potato gratin or in quiches and tarts.
- The sweet nutty notes of eye cheeses are complemented by savoury flavours like mustard, smoked meats and pickles.
For more recipes with eye-cheeses, visit The Dairy Kitchen