Robertson cheese makers Michael and Cressida McNamara have such refined palates they can taste the seasons in their handcrafted products. Heavy rain can lead to “sweet and creamy” milk, perfect for their yoghurt and soft cheese; drier conditions will give earthy, spicy notes that make the blue and semi-hard cheeses “come alive”.
The McNamaras, who have been making sheeps milk cheese for two years in the Southern Highlands, will be selling their Pecora Dairy artisan produce at tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald Growers' Market.
As the relationship between nature and producer becomes increasingly important, they have become “milk whisperers”, responding to slight changes and variations in the taste of their animals' milk to make the best cheese.
A downpour early this week provided 230ml of rain at their property and their springs are running again.
“Because of all this rain, there is highly digestible green pick coming through so we'll probably see a spring-like taste now,” he said.
As Justin Telfer, from Bangalow Cheese in northern NSW, points out, the subtleties of the seasons are lost in mass-produced cheese because the milk is “standardised”.
A newcomer to the Growers' Market, he says artisan cheese makers must alter their techniques based on “how the milk is behaving at the time”.
“It's about being really hands-on and in touch with what's happening in the vats so you can make adjustments to your process based on your desired outcome,” he said.
To make their produce available at its peak freshness, some producers sell solely at the markets.
“What we produce in that week gets sold that weekend,” said Karen Borg, who makes chevre with her husband David at Willowbrae Chevre Cheese, Wilberforce in the Hawkesbury. “We start again on Monday for next week's market so it's lovely and fresh, that's how goat's cheese should be eaten.”
The Sydney Morning Herald Growers' Market is on from 7am-11am on Saturday, February 2 at Pyrmont Bay Park, opposite The Star. Visit growersmarketpyrmont.com.au for more details.