Award-winning cheesemakers on the Castlereagh River, NSW, enjoy doing things the old and slow way.

Story John Dunn  Photo Blue Sky Cheese

Fancy a Castlereagh Camembert? Or a Peppa Gouda? Want to watch these fine cheeses being made? A long journey to Normandy or Amsterdam is not required – just pop into tiny Mendooran, NSW, between Dubbo and Coonabarabran. There, beside the Castlereagh River and in the shadows of the Warrumbungle Ranges, Deb Kiem has turned a hobby into a thriving business and tourist attraction – Blue Sky Cheese. 

Deb is a teacher by profession – 35 years in schools from Sandy Hollow to Scone Grammar – but says “the chemistry of cheesemaking was always there in the back of my mind”. Her first foray was working with Hunter Belle Cheese in Muswellbrook. “I was fascinated by the process and learned as much as I could before the business was sold,” she says. 

Deb and her husband Glen later moved to a shorthorn cattle property near Mendooran, where she became involved with the agricultural show and met Pip Archer, who was also interested in cheesemaking. They decided to “give it a go” in 2018, making cheese by hand. 

“We use 180L of fresh milk from The Little Big Dairy at Dubbo, and a double boiler to heat in 30L batches,” Deb explains. “Each batch is transferred to a large vat, where cultures are stirred in. Visitors who come to watch are intrigued by the chemistry, which involves the curds being ladled into baskets, where they drain overnight.”

Deb says making cheese with minimal equipment is “good for the grey cells because you have to really think about how the weather affects the process

This story excerpt is from Issue #150

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2023