wheels of gold



It’s early morn­ing milk­ing time and, like clock­work, a herd of sweet-faced Jersey cows makes a leisurely conga line across the clover pas­tures of the south­ern Fleurieu Penin­sula to­wards the dairy on the hill. The cows bear the names of celebrity cooks, such as Nigella and Poh, or gem­stones, such as Emer­ald and Opal, and pro­duce milk rich in but­ter­fat that is made into the award-win­ning hand­made cheese and dairy prod­ucts of the Alexan­d­rina Cheese Com­pany. The Alexan­d­rina Cheese Com­pany at Mount Jagged, 72 kilo­me­tres south of Ade­laide, is very much a fam­ily af­fair, ac­cord­ing to Re­bekah Mccaul. Re­bekah, 37, who is the fourth gen­er­a­tion of the cheese­mak­ing Mc­cauls, grew up on the 111-hectare farm that she de­scribes as an ex­am­ple of a pad­dock-to-plate en­ter­prise. Re­bekah’s par­ents, Dan and Krystyna Mccaul, started mak­ing a hard ched­dar cheese on the farm in 2001 when dairy dereg­u­la­tion caused milk prices to plum­met. “We were send­ing a lot of but­ter­fat out the gate and not be­ing paid very much for it, so mum and dad went to Queens­land to do a cheese­mak­ing course,” says Re­bekah. “On fam­ily hol­i­days in Vic­to­ria and Tas­ma­nia we al­ways went to visit cheese­mak­ers and they could see that mak­ing cheese was go­ing to yield more re­turn than milk.” Krystyna’s par­ents had been dairy­ing on the farm since the early 1970s, and Dan’s fam­ily had also been mak­ing cheese since 1902. “Dad’s fa­ther, Kevin, made a hard-style cheese like his grand­fa­ther Jeremiah be­fore him — and we make it ex­actly the same to­day. Kevin was su­per­in­ten­dent of six cheese fac­to­ries and had writ­ten a lot about cheese. He and my mother’s fa­ther, George Manowski, were a great sup­port when we be­gan the cheese­mak­ing here.” Fol­low­ing that first ched­dar, they now make a range of hard cheeses — “We are the only edam maker on the main­land” — and soft cheese such as feta and ri­cotta, along with pure Jersey cream, crème fraîche, pot-set yo­ghurts and full cream and skim milk. The pur­pose-built cheesery has a re­tail sec­tion open daily for cheese tast­ings and sales. Dan is head cheese­maker, while Re­bekah shares the mar­ket­ing with her mother; brothers Ge­off and Steve are in­volved, too. “The fam­ily mem­bers have dif­fer­ent roles, but we over­lap so it’s not hard to re­place one of the mem­bers.” Re­bekah lives on the farm with her hus­band Mark Prz­i­billa, who over­sees the busi­ness’s de­vel­op­ment, and their two boys, Jozef, five, and Pa­tryk, two. “Mum’s mother still lives here, so now four gen­er­a­tions are here,” she says. “I love hav­ing my own chil­dren grow up in the same en­vi­ron­ment that I did.” The Mc­cauls run a small and sus­tain­able herd of 70 cows. “We like the fact that our cows have new grass to graze on and are not stressed. A small herd is fan­tas­tic for cow health and for farm health. Less is more, and we fo­cus on qual­ity. The cheese we make is the best qual­ity.” Alexan­d­rina Cheese Com­pany, Sneyd Road, Mount Jagged, SA. (08) 8554 9666; alexan­dri­nacheese.com.au


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