At TML we don’t dwell too much on ‘the good old days’.
We prefer to look forward and write about who’s leading us into a more magnificent life in the days ahead.
We are great admirers of tradition, but not just for old times sake or solely for nostalgia. A company’s traditions should be a foundation from which innovation and progress can spring.
We don’t live in the past but sometimes it’s OK to look back just to see how far we’ve come.
What sort of cheese did you grow up with? If you are “a certain age” you may even remember a chunk of ‘block cheese’, cloth-wrapped cheddar-style from the corner grocer. Maybe your sandwiches featured Kraft from the blue cardboard pack or speadable Velveeta in yellow. Exotica came in the form of Danish Blue, a white and cobalt acid attack. Later Kraft did give us some tasty bite with their Fred Walker cheddar named after a revered Melbourne entrepreneur they had teamed up with in the 1920s.
Cheese in those distant childhoods was a limited range of staples prescribed for simple nourishment not pleasure. As with so much of our present food, revolution came with immigration from the other side of the world serving up the many and varied textures and flavours Europeans had enjoyed for centuries.
Do you love cheese?
Evidently some of us do. In Australia, we each consume nearly 14 kilos of the stuff each year. Most of it with names from the Old World.
Unlike wine, where we are now forbidden to use names such as champagne, burgundy, chablis, port and sherry, we can still call Australian-made cheese by the name of the original European product.
Our cold cabinets are overflowing with locally made camembert, brie, cheddar, edam, feta and parmesan.
Our ambassador for traditional and artisan chesses, the well-travelled Will Studd opened our eyes and palates to the incredible variety of the world’s cheese through the 155 episodes of his TV Series Cheese Slices.
Local heroes like King Island and the sturdy and relentlessly innovative Nick Haddow from Tasmania’s Bruny Island have shown we can take on the world for singular flavours.
Regardless of names, our home-stocked cheeseboards now present a delicious and cosmopolitan array.
A niche of delciousness
One of our favourite companies, the small but perfectly formed Meredith Dairy offers a real point of difference in handmade cheese. In their herds we don’t see the familiar big-eyed faces of cows, but the delicate and pretty features of sheep and goats. The Meredith Dairy story involves hardship and uncertainty but is a textbook example of identifying a space in the nation’s tummy and skillfully and passionately filling it.
We spoke to Julie Cameron who with husband Sandy and son Angus can show us the rewards of dedication. Sheepfarming was part of the family business but the global wool market collapsed in the 1990s. Desperate times, but out of diversity comes innovation. A chance meeting with a cheesemaker informed them that some of the best cheeses in the world were made from sheep’s milk.
A lightbulb moment, but as Julie says: “At the time there were no ‘dairy’ sheep breeds in Australia, nor was there an Australian sheep or goat dairy industry which we could investigate. There were imports of French products but only in very small amounts. We had to develop the market from the ground up. Dairy animals were selected from the existing small flock on the farm and the cheese developed to meet Australian consumer’s needs. The dairy goats, a natural fit for the enterprise, were introduced in 1995. Matching milk supply with our growing market when there is no other source of milk was a challenge, and introducing brand new dairy products to Australian consumers needed enthusiasm & patience.”
Eventually the triumphs came
The family was delighted when their Meredith Dairy Blue Cheese won best cheese in the Blue Cheese category at the prestigious Dairy Awards, beating well-known cow milk cheeses.
They have since won numerous accolades for their farm including Landcare and Agribusiness awards along with multiple awards for the cheeses and yoghurts themselves.
But the best rewards come day by day, seeing their products on supermarket shelves and on restaurant menus and hearing great feedback from customers. Also being able to offer careers for local people as the Meredith enterprise grows.
A couple more questions
Your favourite cheese, apart from your own?
“I really like Bass Strait Blue made by King Island. My absolute favorite cheese is a toss-up between the raw sheep milk cheeses made in the south of France; Roquefort & Ossau-Iraty.”
Thoughts for the future?
“Continue to grow the Meredith Dairy enterprise in a sustainable way, continue to develop farming systems & dairy products to remain viable for the next generation.
Meredith Dairy is fundamentally a farm business with a value adding cheese factory as the vehicle to sell our farm produce. We are farmers first. For our business to be around for years to come we need to continue to protect the natural environment, look after the local community and be economically responsible. This takes hard work, passion, attention to detail and integrity.”
Says it all. Thanks Julie.
See more about this delicious enterprise and the family’s produce at www.meredithdairy.com
Also you can read a famous food person’s account of a visit to Meredith with Tracy Wood of Visually Delicious. Try some of Tracy’s fabulous recipes too. Click on the link to the right or go to www.tracyvwood.squarespace.com