Say cheese

When you love cheese as much as Dr Leisa Denaro of Lamington Terrace Vet Surgery in Nambour, QLD, your only choice is to make it yourself.

“I’ve just been a mad, crazy cheese person for as long as I can remember. Wherever I go, I seek out as many different types of locally made cheese as I can find. I’ve always had a particular love of goat cheese so six years ago, I purchased a couple of Toggenburg does. My plan was to have plenty of beautiful fresh goat’s milk to make my own cheese.

“We live on a small acreage that’s just the right size to keep goats. I had no background in cheese making, so I did a couple of courses over a 12-month period. I started to experiment with the goat’s milk I was collecting on a daily basis.

“It’s really not a difficult process—turning milk into a curd is very straightforward. The art and craft of cheese making is in how you develop the flavours and how you mature the cheese. Fresh goat curd is ready to eat in 24 to 36 hours from when the milk is collected. On the other hand, a hard blue cheese takes at least three to six months to mature. It needs to be temperature- and humidity-controlled while being wiped or rubbed daily to develop the different moulds.

“One of my most successful cheeses was actually a mistake. I also make soaps and lotions from goat’s milk and I was working on a rosemary and mint essential oil infused soap. The soap was curing in the fridge and that morning’s milk went into the same fridge by mistake. When I made the cheese, the mint and rosemary essences had flavoured the milk. That cheese ended up being a marinated feta that won a home cheese-maker award.

“I’m not a licensed cheese maker so I’m unable to sell my cheeses—I just give it away to family, friends and staff. And I eat a lot of it myself! To become licensed, I would need to gain accreditation for my kitchen facilities and dairy. Down the track I intend to jump over all those hurdles and have a small-scale operation. I don’t have any visions of grandeur but I think it’s wonderful when people know exactly where their food originates and can taste the flavours of the region.

“Dairy goats will always be a part of my future. They’re very intelligent animals and will bond with you as strongly as a dog. They answer and come to their own name, and have individual personalities. And they produce the milk that allows you to make the most beautiful array of cheeses.”

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