sweet dreams are made of cheese

We meet a cheese-mak­ing cou­ple who have done the ul­ti­mate DIY job, from pas­ture to pecorino.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

No-one loves Kirsty Sil­vester’s ar­ti­san cheeses more than her mum. The day Wild Bush Cheese got the of­fi­cial tick of ap­proval to sell its prod­ucts, she got on the phone.

“Be­fore we got all our pa­per­work, we were giv­ing away a lot of cheese to friends and fam­ily and they kept ask­ing ‘when can we buy it?’,” says Kirsty. “Mum was so great. She just rang ev­ery­body, ‘do you want to buy any cheese – how much do you want?’ So it was just by luck we had sort-of done our mar­ket­ing and we al­ready had a mar­ket.”

In that first of­fi­cial year, Kirsty made 300kg of hal­loumi, feta and pecorino in her DIY cheese­mak­ing fac­tory. Last year it was 450kg. In the 2017-2018 sea­son she’s ex­pect­ing to pro­duce 800kg of cheese and cus­tomers can’t wait. The feta Kirsty made on her first day of cheese­mak­ing for 2017 was sold be­fore she’d cut the curd.

“We sup­ply the most fan­tas­tic cheese shop down in Feather­ston called C’est Cheese, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave, and the cheese I’ve made today has got their name on it. (Owner Paul Broughton) has been ask­ing me for more for a cou­ple of months, so that’s go­ing straight down there.”

Kirsty’s ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ing jour­ney be­gan when her part­ner Dave Chap­man gifted her a cheese kit in 2011. She started us­ing lo­cal or­ganic cow’s milk and found the process so en­joy­able, she took a few cour­ses to learn more.

“Our friends and fam­ily loved the cheese I was mak­ing and I found my­self mak­ing more and more of it.”

In 2012 the cou­ple vis­ited Dave’s daugh­ter Cara who was liv­ing in Italy.

“While we were there we did some wwoof­ing (work­ing in ex­change for food and ac­com­mo­da­tion) on a small dairy farm. I learned how to milk sheep and goats by hand, while Dave did some build­ing, scyth­ing, and even shear­ing with good old-fash­ioned clip­pers.”

The fam­ily who owned the farm made their own raw milk cheese to a tra­di­tional recipe and it was in­spir­ing.

“This got us both think­ing more about what we could do when we re­turned home.”

The cou­ple live in the small ru­ral com­mu­nity of Woodville on a block Dave bought back in 1995. He built a house and ran sheep, cows, a large flock of chick­ens and some ducks. When he met Kirsty, the col­lec­tion of an­i­mals quickly grew to in­clude al­pacas, cats and a dog.

“And any­thing else that turned up!” jokes Kirsty.

Their life­style busi­ness, in­spired by that trip to Italy, was de­signed to be enough work for just the two of them, and they do it all: farm the sheep, milk them, and make and sell the cheese. ➤

The feta Kirsty made on her first day of cheese­mak­ing for 2017 was sold be­fore she cut the curd.

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