Demand for cheese outstrips supply
JUSTIN Telfer had not imagined that he would one day be asked to consider exporting his handmade-in-Corndale cheeses to France, but that is exactly what happened to him a few weeks ago during the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Awards.
Justin Telfer’s Bangalow Cheese Company had just taken out two championships, for his Nashua Washed Rind variety. International dairy judge Yves Boutonnat came to him to discuss exporting the cheese to France.
“It was great to be asked, but there’s no way,” Telfer laughs. “It’s not going to happen. We can’t keep up with demand within Australia. We’re getting requests from every capital city and overseas – even from Russia! There are just three of us, and we do absolutely everything by hand, including the packaging and handwritten labels. We don’t want to become a production line or a big supermarket item. We’re really focused on keeping it hands-on and some time soon we’re going to hit the limit of what we can make.”
The company has had a meteoric rise to success. Telfer spent three years at Melbourne University studying cheese making, followed by two years in Sydney, before buying a 13-hectare property at Nashua and moving here with his partner Mark Sollom.
Bangalow Cheese started trading from the old Corndale butter factory in 2008, selling handmade cheeses and butter at Byron Bay and Bangalow farmers’ markets.
Within the first year they had started to win prizes at the Brisbane and Sydney Cheese Awards and now the cheeses also can be found at selected local stores, such as the Blue OIive Deli in Byron Bay, Foodworks at Bangalow, and soon, Howards Deli in South Lismore.
All the company’s cheeses are named after a Northern Rivers village. As well as the Nashua Washed Rind, Tintenbar Triple Cream, Byron Bay Blue, Brooklet Brie and Coorabell Fresh Curd all proudly sport their area of origin. The latest is the Newrybar Semi-Hard, a bit similar to a Swiss cheese and with a slightly nutty flavour.
“We get through only 500 litres of milk a week,” Telfer says. “That’s a very small operation. The milk we use comes from a herd that has Friesian, Guernsey, Jersey and Swiss Brown cows.”
The only machinery involved in the operation is the pasteuriser, which they have to use by law. But shortly the company will be getting a new pasteuriser that will double the amount of milk that can be processed.
“Even the butter we make is all done by hand,” says Telfer. “We’re not allowed to use the old-fashioned wooden butter pats and, anyway, we don’t need to shape our butter into blocks because we sell it in tubs – so all the washing, rinsing and shaping is done by hand. It’s a cultured butter, very good for the digestion. We sour the cream with a starter culture; it gives it a fresher, milky character.
Telfer also enjoys imparting his cheese knowledge to others and regularly conducts home cheese making workshops and cheese master classes. Phone 02 6629 1888 for details, or visit the website at www.bangalowcheese.com.au
Justin Telfer is also a consultant for the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia in Melbourne, where he imparts the art of specialty cheese making to budding practitioners.