Goat's cheese growing in stature
TUCKED away just outside of Mulgowie is a farmhouse which has been producing award winning cheese for more than a decade.
But it's not the kind of cheese most people are used to indulging in.
Emmo's Fine Foods, based in Thornton, produces several different varieties of goat's cheese, as well as pasteurised goat's milk and, on special occasions, goat's milk gelato.
Owners Annie and Paul Emmerson have been milking all their lives, with both coming from a long line of dairy farmers, but the deregulation of the industry forced them to look at other avenues away from cow's milk.
"We started cheese to value add to the cow's milk, with deregulation we were struggling and we were just looking for an extra way of making income,” Mrs Emmerson said.
"We very quickly realised that you can't make cheese and sell it and compete with the like of Coles in the cow's cheese... there's so much more of it out there and there's some very good cheese makers around making cow's cheese.”
At the beginning of 2006 they got their first goats and, after Mrs Emmerson completed a set of cheese courses, they began selling their products in 2007.
Things quickly grew from there and the business now currently sells several types of goat's cheese including Camembert, Greek fetta, Persian marinated fetta, haloumi, blue, a hard cheese and much more.
They grow their own feed, milk their animals, process the milk, make the cheese and also sell their goods themselves.
"It all comes direct from us,” she said.
Mrs Emmerson said the process is very similar to milking cows but with a few small differences.
"The milk's a little bit different in it's components,” she said.
"You have to be a little bit more diligent, you have to change things a little bit for the goat's milk because it's a much softer milk, it doesn't set the same as cow's milk.
"It's not as straight forward... the processes are the same but you just have to accommodate the different types of milk.”
The market for such a product is growing, with the appetite for goat's cheese getting stronger each year, where it was previously only seen as an upmarket delicacy.
"We're looking to target that very niche market of dietary needs,” she said.
"Now with everybody so diet conscious, there's a market there for those who can't tolerate cow's milk for whatever reason.
"And (also for) the people just looking for that different flavour, goat's milk tends to be a little bit stronger at times and very different in flavour to the cow's milk.
"You can taste the goat's milk cheese more after you've finished eating it then while you're eating it, it tends to hang around, and when it's very fresh, it's very crisp and almost lemony fresh.”
They first began picking up awards for their cheese in 2008 and the accolades have yet to stop.
"Every year since then, bar one, I've had gold medal awards in competitions I've entered which means I get down to the Australian Grand Dairy Awards in Melbourne,” she said.
"At least one of those years I got to be one of the finalist, so I was very, very pleased with that.
"I don't know what makes me different... a lot of people complain of a 'bucky' taste and smell to goat's cheese, we seem to be very fortunate in that we don't have that.”
Mrs Emmerson has four of her cheeses - camembert, feta, blue and fromage blanc - going down to Victoria for judging later in the year, with results being announced next February.
She hopes the hunger for goat's cheese will only grow as more and more people get a a taste, with plans for Emmo's Fine Foods to introduce even more varieties to their range.
With that comes more competition on the marketplace but Mrs Emmerson believes the quality of her products will shine through as they have always done.
"There's more of it opening up all the time - that makes my job a little bit harder, but I could very easily become a lot busier than I am, without too much more effort,” she said.
"My milk sales are climbing all the time and I'm only selling that through a couple of restaurants that use it and through markets and that sort of thing.
"We've got a couple of things we're looking to try... there's a couple of variations of different cheese we're looking to expand on in the future.”