RAW MILK CHEESE
In March 2020 we were given approval as the first commercial cheesemaker in Victoria to produce uncooked, entirely raw cheese under strict new food standards regulation. We are now thrilled to have released consistent, multiple seasons of batches with great results.
For a number of years we have been exploring ways to create cheeses that truly express the terroir of our milk; celebrating the particular biology of our environment, encapsulated in time as the milk changes between seasons.
Firstly we collaborated with industry partners to isolate cheesemaking cultures from our raw milk, in a laboratory. The use of these unique and diverse microbes in our cheesemaking led to the success of Venus Blue. This trial also compared experimentation with batches of raw milk cheese which were commercially prohibited at the time.
After significant lobbying, food safety regulations were introduced, with industry consultation, to permit the production of raw milk cheeses in Australia, albeit under very strict guidelines.
After two years of product development and upgrading our food safety plan & procedures, we were finally granted approval in March 2020 to produce a specific raw milk cheese within the brief, providing our milk passed hygiene testing.
We began production of 'Moyarra Reserve' , a semi-hard pressed cheese with natural smear-rind. The milk and curds are not cooked (pasteurised) at any stage of the process. Instead, potential pathogens in the milk are de-activated through parameters of moisture, salt, natural lactic acid, temperature and time. For this reason Moyarra Reserve must be matured for over 5 months, and pass extensive tests to guarantee it is safe to eat. This process is very labour intensive, and the testing expensive compared to regular pasteurised cheese, increasing the cost of production.
We believe the resulting cheese is worth all the extra effort. The diverse biology and complex chemical reactions within the cheese produce a cheese unlike any other. The initial aroma and flavor is vibrant, like caramelised summer hay. The middle palette is robust, filling and lingering in the sinuses with a spicy finish.
Being farmhouse cheesemakers in direct control of the process including our milk quality, we are well suited to accept this task. Immersing ourselves into every aspect of the soil, pastures, animals, milk and ripening environment is immensely satisfying, to be part of the result. This is something we had to do, and a natural progression from our overall ethos of producing interesting food experiences in traditional, sustainable and ethical ways.
While we hope to see many Australians enjoying this and future raw milk cheeses from us, it is not for everyone or every occasion, and will not replace our existing cheeses you know and love. It may however affect scheduling and supply of our production, which will become even more season-specific as we cannot make raw milk cheese at the same time as other cheeses.
We have since created raw milk cheese in the 'cheddar' style, called 'Bena', with another exciting project using our organic cows milk in the pipeline...
Percora Dairy, another sheep dairy in NSW, was the first manufacturer in Australia to make raw milk cheese this way. Some others use raw milk to make hard cheeses where the curds are cooked at high temperatures to kill potential pathogens. Please support your local cheesemakers in their pursuit for creating quality, regional Australian cheeses. Thanks to the Australian Specialty Cheesemakers Association, Dairy Food Safety Victoria and FSANZ for their assistance in making this project happen. We hope this is the beginning of great things and brings us a little closer to a level playing field with imported cheeses.