Handcrafted Boosey Creek Cheese

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

It’s a Tuesday morning on the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence produce tour and that means blue cheese day at Boosey Creek Cheese.

Cheesemaker and co-owner, Ken Cameron, gives us a tour of the dairy and 900-acre farm where 350 Friesian cows produce 400 million litres of milk a year. Only 100,000 litres goes into the cheesemaking, yet this ‘side business’ is the heart of Boosey Creek.

“We’ve been milking cows on this farm for 14 years and have been dairy farmers before that,” says Ken. “But when the drought came through, we sold the bigger part of the dairy and started making cheese.”

That diversification, spurred by a family history of cheesemaking and Ken’s passion has turned around the family business.

“The second batch of cheese I ever made won a silver medal at the Sydney Royal Show,” says Ken proudly. While the Boosey Blue is their best seller, the Warby Red Brie/Camembert is racking up the awards, including Australia’s Champion Washed Rind Cheese in the 2015 Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

On Mondays, they make Camembert and Brie, on Tuesdays, it’s blue cheese, and Gouda and cheddar are made “any day of the week.”

 

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Ken uses 500 litres from the first milking of the day for the cheesemaking. The milk runs directly from the cows to the dairy through a pipe barely a metre long between the two buildings. “That’s one thing we do differently,” says Ken’s mother, Ada Cameron, as she expertly cuts a Warby Red for our tasting. “As soon as you have to transport your milk even 100m across the yard to the factory you have to cool it, then heat it up and pump it again, whereas our milk only gets one little pump. That makes a huge difference to the quality of the cheese.”

 

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The quality is also in the cheesemaking.

“Everything is done by hand,” explains Ada. “The salting, hooping, wrapping and milling. After the curds set they have to be milled. Big factories use machinery but we do it with the chopping board. You’ve got to have it done within so many minutes so the pH doesn’t change so we’re all madly chopping away.”

The success of a small-scale, artisanal cheesemaker is one of the factors that impress chef Jordan McLeod and waiter Robert Luo from Oscillate Wildly.

Dan Moss, chef and restaurateur from Terroir Auburn, also appreciates seeing things first hand. “We make our own Haloumi cheese so I can relate to a few of the processes. We use milk from Jersey cows in the Fleurieu so it was interesting to see this milk from Friesians, and the sheer size of them,” he says.

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By-products, such as whey, are returned to the farm. “We make a poo shandy,” says Ada. “We have a two pond system for our effluence. During irrigation season we shandy that with our irrigation water and it goes on the paddocks. The grass loves it.”

The irrigation system also means the cows feed on perennial and annual pastures all year round. They are also fed grains during milking, depending on their individual feeding allowance.

“All the cows have RFID tags; when they walk into the dairy, it reads their number and that information is used for the feed system. There’s also a milk meter that checks how much milk they give,” says Ken.

“On average, a cow produces 30 litres a day, and up to 50 litres when they calve. Friesians produce more milk than most breeds. We milk three times a day and the majority goes to Parmalat for Pauls milk.

“They are two years old when they’re started and they calve every 12-15 months. We have cows calving all year round and about half of those are female, so the herd is growing by 100 cows a year. We don’t buy any; we sell the older cows routinely, and the male calves at five-days old.”

We walk around to the shed where a dozen doe-eyed brown calves are hand fed by Ken and his family. The calves poke their noses through the wooden gates and lick our fingers.

It’s life on a dairy farm, and the result is award-winning cheese that spells success for the Cameron family.

Boosey Creek Cheese
734 Grinter Road
Boosey VIC 3730
+61 3 5748 4374

 

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Relaxed cows…the key to great cheddar

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

Tucked away in the hills of northeast Tasmania is a little village called Pyengana, population 123. And quietly making its mark on the Australian dairy industry is the Pyengana Dairy Company. They produce traditional, cloth-bound cheddar – and have done so the exact same way for over a hundred years.

“We haven’t changed any style or methods of cheesemaking since the early 1900s”, said Greg Gibson, the general manager of the company. “This is a hands-on, human controlled, artisan process. It requires talent, patience and perseverance to learn the art and to perfect it”.

Four generations of the Healey family have done one thing and done it properly.

A hundred years ago cheese making was a measured and labour intensive process, taking the time to ensure quality and consistency. At Pyengana Dairy Company, it still is.

The art of making their traditional, stirred-curd cheddar is a labour of love, and a daily six-hour labour at that, for Pyengana’s two young cheese makers.

“We have the luxury of spending time with each batch and letting the curd do what it wants to do”, said James, one of the cheese makers. “Everything you see here today is done by hand. We haven’t tried to speed up the process at all”.

The ethos of quality extends into the dairy farm where old methods efficiently rub shoulders with new, state-of-the-art technology. A sophisticated robotic milking system allows Pyengana’s herd of Friesian cows to “effectively milk themselves” in a stress-free environment.

The cows come up to the milking shed only when they want to be milked. An electronic tagging system ensures that each cow is only milked to its individual capacity, about 25 litres a day.

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“The greatest benefit is that our cows are milked according to their needs, not our routine, so there’s no stress on the animal”, said Greg.”

The cows are raised on a farm that is “as organic as possible” and are kept in the herd for 10-12 years. Alongside the cheddars, Pyengana’s produces ‘Real Milk’, a 100 per cent natural, non-homogenised milk for the Tasmanian market, and hand-made ice cream.

Finally, it was time to taste the famous cheddar. Darren, the shop manager, served served up six cheddars at different stages of maturation. We began with the squeaky milk curds that were barely an hour old, and followed through to a four-week old mild cheddar and a 12-month old dry crumbly Tasty cheddar.

The piece de resistance was, of course, the cloth-wrapped 18-month old vintage cheddar. Its salty, bitey flavour was both memorable and moreish.

“The cloth makes a big difference. It keeps the moisture in and helps the bacteria to work”, said Darren. “The bacteria and salt draw moisture out of the cheese. You want that, you need the fat content and the salt to work together”.

The dedication to traditional methods and exceptional quality of the dairy really resonated with the group. It came as no surprise to hear that the company has been consistently winning national awards for its cheddar since 1991, including the 2014 Champion Cheddar Cheese at the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

Gerald Ryan, a sommelier at Brae in Victoria and Australian Young Waiter 2014, said “There’s a lot of elbow grease that goes into actually making Pyengana cheese and that’s why it’s such a high quality product. After seeing their old-fashioned cheese making and low impact sustainable farming, it’ll be great to sell the stories of a place like this”.

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Pyengana Dairy Company
www.pyenganadairy.com.au
Email: shop@pyenganadairy.com.au

Say cheese – a vertical cheesing tasting with Ueli Berger

Written by Lilani Goonesena.

Imagine tasting the same cheese side by side, just at different stages in its life. That’s what we were treated to – a ‘vertical’ cheese tasting with King Island Dairy’s head cheesemaker, Ueli Berger. He brought five cheeses from King Island Dairy and Tasmanian Heritage, each at different maturation stages so we could appreciate the effects age has on the cheese.

King Island Dairy only uses its own dairy cows. “If we run out of milk, we stop making cheese”, says Ueli. “King Island has this beautiful microclimate to produce a special milk. As an island we hardly ever get frost so the grass grows all the time and the cows can be out there eating fresh grass all the time”.

Ueli also gave us some advice about choosing cheeses and the ideal ripeness at which soft cheeses should be consumed.

“The closer the cheese is to it’s best before date the closer it is to it’s optimum ripeness. Especially with the white mould cheeses, so my recommendation is to always look for cheese as close to the best before date as possible if you want to eat it straight away”.

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With cheddars, King Island Dairy has three – aged four months, 12 months and two years. Ueli says it’s important to balance the moisture content to ensure that the two-year old cheddar can last the distance.

Kind Island Dairy has two washed rind cheeses. These are rubbed with a unique brine containing brevi-bacterium linens to bring out the orangish colour on the surface and develop distinct earthy flavours in the cheese.

Altogether, it was an insightful tasting. Dale Sutton, a chef at momofuku seiobo in Sydney, said, “It was really interesting to see what mould does to a cheese. Ueli Berger’s knowledge was amazing, we learned about the process from start to end and all the little variants – the shape, size, temperature, humidity – that goes into creating a cheese”.

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About Ueli Berger:
Swiss-born Ueli Berger has an inexhaustible passion for cheesemaking which began very early in life. As the grandson of a cheesemaker and son of a dairy farmer, his European childhood provided plenty of opportunities to explore his craft.

After studying cheesemaking in Switzerland for three years, Ueli was chosen from a group of 48 cheesemakers to work for an Australian soft cheese manufacturer. In 1998, he moved to King Island to become King Island Dairy’s head cheesemaker.

With a career now spanning more than 25 years, Ueli has earned acclaim both nationally and internationally.