Cheese and raw milk, the other point of view (Part II)

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.”

By word of mouth, the Milawa cheese company has grown, now employing 8 people in the cheese production and attracting 150,000 visitors a year buying cheese or being guests of the restaurant.

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.


About frenchozzie

I have been working in a daily Newspaper in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, amidst vineyards, close to the Olympic Games headquarters in Lausanne, and amongst world class gourmet restaurants in a land with breathtaking views of the Alps. But now I am here in Australia for good.
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One Response to Cheese and raw milk, the other point of view (Part II)

  1. Thanks for following up with the sequel to the first article on Nick’s cheese-making. It’s important obviously to have these two opinions but let’s get some things mentioned by David Brown into perspective here. Yes, he is correct in quoting that today, only approximately 6% of France’s cheeses are made from Raw unpasteurised milk, but he conveniently did not explain WHY. The sad reality is that France, like a lot of European nations, is experiencing a huge problem with their own dairy and cheese industries. Not only 50 years ago, close to 100% of French cheese was fabricated from RAW milk and made by artisan cheese-makers according to ancient methods with respect for the land, tradition and the animals. This has declined by almost 95% over approx. 50 years due to mass industrialization of the food industry which has seen large commercial cheese factories buy out smaller family run businesses, replacing hand made techniques with machines and having to abide to strict regulations on food handling. Cheese was never meant to be fabricated from sterilized commercial milk- it’s just an unfortunate evolution of the industry, which we must be aware of, and in my opinion, fight to protect.

    One who has tasted real, raw milk cheese and compared it to the often inferior imitation (such as what is happening now with Normandy’s AOC camembert) cannot deny the difference in character, flavour and the presence of terroir in such a marvellous product. Pasteurization kills the natural enzymes in the raw milk which is in itself a whole food- the enzymes when in tact, help us digest the cheese itself, and so many people wonder why they are “lactose intolerant” when really the are consuming a product which as been rendered partially indigestible.

    Here is some good reading material on the issue:

    I for one will be fighting to the end to encourage raw milk cheese imports and production in Australia, where local producers should be supported and encouraged to foster and nurture their craft and the industry. Of course Australia cannot compete against Parmesan and Roquefort- and we shouldn’t be trying to. If we had our own cheese industry we would have a wonderful and diverse range or our own local, regional fresh cheeses. Long live le vrai fromage!

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