Two men, two philosophies. Nick Haddow on one side (last week’s post), defends the right to produce raw milk cheese. On the other side stands David Brown (picture) from Milawa Cheese company, in the North East of Victoria, nestled in the middle of the the wine tourism regions. Unlike Nick, he believes raw cheese won’t add any value to the Australian food culture.
He defended that point of view in the media when he was president of the Australian Speciality Cheese Association. Today, he still defends the same point of view. In some ways he is right. Parmesan and Camembert are already imported. It looks very difficult for Australia to compete cheese with centuries of cheesemaking history unless they feel like fighting against the natural elements as Nick Haddow did.
The good natured David Brown thinks also that the quality of cheese relies on the process of fermentation, which develops the flavours, not on the fact that milk is raw. “You know, 95% of cheese made in Europe is from cooked milk. Fermentation is how you create a good cheese. It is a far more complex process in cheese than in wine. With wine, sugar is transformed into alcohol in a few days. With cheese, each week is a vintage, and different kinds of fermentation are used to produce blue cheese or cheddar. Therefore, there are as many cheeses as different factories.”
There is no cheesemaking school in Australia. Not one place known for its taste and traditions. This is the reason why producers grope their way along. “There were a lot of trials. Here in Australia, you must have climate controled premises. For blue cheese, you need to have 4 degrees of temperature and 90% of humidity. This is very difficult to achieve in our country.” David Brown started 23 years ago. Before being a cheesemaker, he was a cook on a mining site and earlier, a teacher. “My family and I wanted to live in the country. I dreamt of growing a winery, but there were too many already, so I started cheese. There were only two or three of us at that time.”
I won’t decide in favour of either Nick Haddow or David Brown, they are just different. Nick Haddow has developed flavoured hard paste cheeses and a variety similar to Camembert. I loved the “Oen” from the word oenology, the study of wines’ washed in Pinot Noir. David Brown has delicious blue cheeses: in particular, I noticed the Milawa blue, his first, and the Capricornia, a hard paste goat cheese. For those two, and others, he has won awards.