The art of cheese

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - By KYLIE WIL­SON

MANY of us en­joy sam­pling gourmet cheese with wine or an­tipasto, but among the gourmet food pro­duc­ers in the North East are cheese­mak­ers who have ded­i­cated them­selves to achiev­ing a range of flavour.

Among these is Jack Con­dron, who worked his way up the ranks at Mi­lawa Cheese Com­pany to the role of head cheese­maker, af­ter ini­tially work­ing in the re­tail side of the busi­ness.

Born and bred in Oxley, he grew up just a stone’s throw from Mi­lawa Cheese.

But over the years, his pas­sion for cheese­mak­ing has grown and grown.

“It’s quite easy to be­come pas­sion­ate about cheese­mak­ing, many peo­ple do it at home in their spare time as a hobby,” Jack said.

“I guess what I love about it is the idea of creat­ing some­thing de­li­cious that other peo­ple re­ally en­joy.

“A good cheese­maker has to be ob­ser­vant, al­ways mon­i­tor­ing the milk and the cheese it­self right through mat­u­ra­tion - some of which can take two years.

“The process too is a rare mix of art and science, where you have to think about the mi­crobes and how they work within a cheese, and then also think­ing about how that cheese will look and taste.

“It can be frus­trat­ing, but it’s a thor­oughly en­joy­able job.

“I’ve been lucky to have worked with such knowl­edge­able peo­ple who are widely renowned through­out the in­dus­try.”

Jack’s dream is to travel to Western Europe, par­tic­u­larly Bri­tain, France and Italy, to get a feel for the pro­cesses used by the cheese­mak­ers there.

“I think it’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see how other peo­ple and cul­tures go about cheese­mak­ing, and some­times you can learn new tech­niques and ap­ply it to what you’re do­ing, which re­ally el­e­vates your knowl­edge and skill set,” he said.

Jack be­lieves it’s a “very ex­cit­ing time for food pro­duc­ers in the North East”, say­ing that as new pro­duc­ers of food and bev­er­age prod­ucts emerge, “the more peo­ple we are go­ing to draw here, and that’s great for growth”.

Mean­while for Dono­van and Melissa Jacka, of Tolpud­dle Cheese, be­gin­ning the busi­ness was a way to start their lives anew and forge a ca­reer in some­thing that they loved.

Dono­van said the cou­ple have al­ways had an avid in­ter­est in food, from whip­ping up de­li­cious din­ners to in­dulging in an­tipasto with some good wine.

And the pair spent many years ex­per­i­ment­ing with home cheese­mak­ing be­fore mak­ing the move to Tar­rawingee from in­ner Mel­bourne.

“We’re just two peo­ple who wanted to have a go,” he said.

Dono­van said the busi­ness has grown to a point where they are pro­duc­ing around three tonnes of goat cheese per year, with the milk com­ing from Sansen goats they raise them­selves.

He said that both he and Melissa en­joy “creat­ing some­thing with noth­ing more than the raw prod­uct in your hands”.

The cou­ple love that cheese flavours are ever chang­ing, depend­ing on the goats, the time of year and even the weather.

Dono­van said while the busi­ness has won a num­ber of awards over the past few years, he and Melissa find the pos­i­tive feed­back from cus­tomers the most re­ward­ing part of the job.

When he’s not mak­ing cheese or work­ing on the farm, Dono­van said his favourite in­dul­gence was to make and en­joy home­made salami, adding that salami sea­son was one of his favourite times of year.

He said he was heart­ened to see the con­stant growth of the food and wine scene in the North East.

“It’s grown sub­stan­tially,” he said, cred­it­ing shows such as Masterchef for fos­ter­ing huge in­ter­est in lo­cally pro­duced food and in­gre­di­ents.

RIS­ING STAR: Jack Con­dron is among the cheese­mak­ers at

Mi­lawa Cheese and (in­set) Melissa Jacka has de­vel­oped Tolpud­dle Cheese at the fam­ily’s Tar­rawingee prop­erty.

NEW LIFE: Es­tab­lish­ing Tolpud­dle Cheese was a life­style change for the bet­ter for the Jacka fam­ily of (from left) Melissa, Har­vey, Dono­van and Macken­zie.

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