Love of cheese sees 121-year-old tradition resurrected
IT'S THE stuff cheese makers dream about - a ready supply of top quality milk fresh from your own herd of cows, and a brand new cheese room, purpose built for creating your cheesy masterpieces.
Twelve months of hard work have turned that dream into reality for local cheese maker Deb Allard and her husband Jim, who have just finished building a custom-made dairy - complete with cheese-making facilities for Deb's business Cheeses Loves You - on their Burringbar property.
The project is more than a new business for the couple; it's the revival of a family dairying tradition that stretches back to 1895, when Jim's great-grandfather bought the property. It was used as a dairy farm right up until 1986, when illness forced Jim's father out of dairying.
Convinced by his father to find work off the farm, Jim got a trade as a welder, but his desire to get back to the land, and Deb's passion for cheese making convinced the couple to get the dairy back up and running this year.
They now have a growing herd of jersey cows which are milked daily, supplying fresh milk for Deb's artisan farmhouse cheese, with extra milk going to local cooperative Norco.
Deb says most dairy farmers choose friesians because they produce a greater volume of milk, but the quality of jersey milk is superior for making cheese. It's higher in fat and protein, and full of healthy bacteria.
"Jersey milk is outstanding. It has a really great PH. It's already full of activity and the bacterias I add to it just enhance it,” she said.
Deb sells her cheeses at the local farmers' markets. Her range includes cottage cheese, ricotta, haloumi, feta, brie, camembert, blue and romano, as well as other dairy products like kefir, cultured butter and yoghurt.
A cheese maker for more than a decade, she is well known for her cheese making classes and has travelled widely to learn her craft, spending time with expert cheese-makers from all over the world.
Deb said because her cheeses were small batch and additive free, they varied in flavour throughout the year and were quite different from the stock standard cheeses sold at the supermarket. Mass produced cheeses usually contain some form of preservatives or additives to extend their shelf life, but the long use-by date often comes at the expense of character and flavour.
"It really effects the quality of cheese,” she said.
Find Cheeses Loves You at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.
RECIPE: Deb's zucchini and haloumi fritters with yoghurt sauce
Ingredients: 500g grated zucchini (about 4 large ones), 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt, 1 finely-chopped onion, 125g grated haloumi, 1 cup roughly chopped baby spinach, 2 beaten eggs, 60g (1/4 cup) plain flour, 1/2 cup olive oil or Rice Bran Oil for frying
Yoghurt sauce: Place 1 finely-minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 125g plain yoghurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir.
1 Put the grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with ground sea salt, toss lightly and set aside for 30 mins. Squeeze out the excess liquid from the zucchini and pat dry with paper towels.
2 Put the zucchini, finely-chopped onion, grated haloumi, baby spinach and beaten eggs in a bowl and stir until combined. Stir in the flour and add pepper if desired.
3 Heat the oil in a non-stick fry pan until hot and drop batter into fry pan, flattening gently with the back of the spatula. Cook until well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towel and serve with yoghurt sauce and lime wedges.