South Australian cheesemaker Kris Lloyd has a mantra: “Happy goats, happy milk, happy cheese, happy Kris.” This approach has won her awards, sent her overseas as an international cheese judge, and fueled a passion that became a career.
It’s also a methodology that’s allowed her to produce The Kid, a raw-milk cheese that’s the first of its kind in Australia.
The Kid was affectionately named by Lloyd’s son. It’s a delicate goat’s milk cheese wrapped in vine leaves and allowed to mature for several weeks, which allows the curd to break down slightly, creating a softer texture and exceptional flavour.
In the past, Australian law meant even “raw” cows-milk cheeses could only be made with milk heated to 48 degrees, which effectively cooks the curds, making cheese that isn’t raw in the true sense of the word. This produces a semi-hard cheese with a distinct flavour profile. (See: Bruny Island Cheese Co.’s Raw C2)
In 2015 new legislation removed the heating requirement, giving cheesemakers more flexibility to experiment. Instead, a set of rigorous health checks must be carried out and criteria met for the cheese to be sold legally.
“We’re perfectly positioned to do this here in Australia and even more so in South Australia because we’ve got such a beautiful, clean environment, clean waterways and great pastures for our animals to graze in,” Lloyd says. “I know I can get access to really high-quality milk.”
Lloyd hand makes her cheeses using locally sourced, single-herd milk at her Adelaide Hills facility, Woodside Cheese Wrights.
“We know what the animals are eating, what they’re grazing on, that there’re no sick animals and no antibiotics used,” she says. “The goats are milked in the morning and the milk comes straight to me.”
Testing for pH, water content and “baddies or pathogens” occurs at every step of the process. “No cheese can be released for sale unless it’s been tested and come back completely clear,” she says.
These rigorous checks are a large part of the legislation, which only overturned the ban on raw cows milk. It’s always been legal to make cheeses with raw goats milk, though the difficult steps required – single herd only, a dedicated processing facility – have thus far prevented anyone else from trying. The next big step will be a true raw cheese made from cows milk.
Aside from the distinct flavour of raw-milk cheeses, Lloyd says the push for acceptance of raw milk is also about choice. “I’d like to have the choice to make a raw-milk cheese and to supply it to the public. It’s also about my skill as a cheesemaker.”
“We don’t have the same opportunities as our European counterparts,” she says, referring to the widespread use of unpasteurised milk on the continent. “In a sense, we’ve been making cheese with one hand tied behind our backs.”
Few dairies are likely to start raw-cheese making and accept the strict conditions that come with it, but the opportunity is there for the creative few.
“I think the beauty of what we do here in Australia is that no one has written our script – we can create the sorts of cheese we want to make from our environment in Australia,” she says.
So far, The Kid is only available from the Woodside Cheese Wrights’ cellar door, but Lloyd says to “watch this space”.