At first, it was a hobby to counterbalance working in high-pressure kitchen environments. “When I was a chef at Cumulus Inc in Melbourne, cheesemaking was how I decompressed,” Wood tells Broadsheet. “I lived in a little apartment on Gold Street in Collingwood, and that’s where I first taught myself to make cheese.”
Recently he has ventured out on his own, opening Goldstreet Dairy, named for that very Collingwood unit. Partnering with the owners of Marrickville’s Wildflower Brewery, Wood has his own space inside the brewery where he turns between 250 and 450 litres of fresh milk into cheese each week. He brings it to his Carriageworks Farmers Market stall every Saturday, and grills it before slapping it into a milk bun as part of AP Bakery’s menu at Wildflower.
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Wood currently has four cheeses available. For the moment, they’re all soft and fresh, but he’s planning to branch out into hard cheeses eventually. The Jersey cheese is reminiscent of haloumi and often served grilled, with a deep, golden crust and a stretchy, white centre. It tastes just as good charcoaled and served on toast with Malfroy’s honey and lemon, on a hot honey bun, or raw with olive oil on a torn-off hunk of baguette.
Cawdor Cow’s Curd is another of Wood’s fresh cheeses. It’s made in the style of chevre: similarly spreadable with a lactic tang. AP Bakery serves it on a zucchini flower flatbread at its own Carriageworks market stall and in its back-laneway spot in Newtown.
With their haloumi-like texture and mozzarella-esque stretchiness the cheeses might seem familiar, but Wood isn’t trying to replicate those already-perfected cheeses. “There are so many famous cheeses around the world. In Australia, rather than trying to copy, we should be making our own.”
To make great cheese, you need great milk. Goldstreet’s comes from a farm in Sydney’s south-west, and goes from paddock to cheese basket in under 18 hours. “I get my milk from Camden Valley Farm. Their Jersey herd is pasture-fed on grass, which is the best for milking. I go out on a truck once a week to pick up an evening’s milk. It goes in a vat and gets refrigerated overnight. In the morning, I make cheese.”
Unprocessed milk barely resembles the homogenous product we find in supermarkets. From morning to evening, season to season, milk changes in texture, fat content and flavour. “Chefs talk about using the best seafood, the best oysters – the exclusive, expensive items. For so many people, milk is just something you get from the fridge. But it’s such a powerful ingredient: the way the flavour changes depending on what the herd is doing, and the science behind turning it into a solid, it’s fascinating.”