Dairy all the whey
This month we are delving into all things dairy; we're putting the spotlight on our favourite dairy based producers and getting to know cheesemaker Kristen Allen. We want to share with you why we love traditional milk-preserving techniques and show you how to do it at home.
The conversion of grass into milk, into butter, ghee, sour cream, ice-cream, yogurt and the hundreds of varieties of cheeses is something of a marvel. The protein, lactose and subtle fats in animal milks have been shaped in different ways by nearly every culture, producing products that speak of tradition and location. Some of these traditions have been unbroken for hundreds of years and others are being forged today, right here in our city.
At Cornersmith we focus on teaching traditional preserving techniques and old-style food crafts. These methods have given us ways to manage seasonal abundance of an ingredient and avoid food waste, with delicious results. Making cheeses, butters and yoghurt are all ways of preserving milk. As milk is one of the most perishable ingredients, understanding how to extend its life was crucial for our ancestors. Through observation, chance or magic they developed the dairy products that we love today. Although time, churning or microbial activity give us these different dairy products, it all begins with quality milk.
We’re staunch about the milk we use in our kitchens and the makers we support, because we believe good food always reflects its origins and processes. Our dairy supplier John Fairley of Country Valley, celebrates locality by keeping his dairy small. Country Valley's uncompromised quality and standards make it our milk of choice in our cafes and retail fridges. Located only 90 minutes from Sydney, in Picton, the dairy has been family run for four generations. It raises 145 head of cattle on its rolling pastures and processes its own milk to ensure freshness and a fair price for farmers. You can read more about this here.
Minimally processed milk, without any additives, from healthy animals that have a natural diet, is what Country Valley provides as a starting point for many a dairy adventure - from your flat white, to Kristen Allen’s creamy labneh, which we serve in our workshops, to Pepe Saya’s cultured butter that you slather on your sourdough.
Choosing to buy quality dairy products, or making your own, gives you a full appreciation for the simple rule that ‘best has less’. Pepe Saya’s butter has nothing other than milk, cultures and salt. These are the same ingredients you will see listed in the Maffra and School House cheeses we stock in our retail fridges; simple, best-quality ingredients handled with skill and turned into something delicious.
Local cheesemaker Kirsten Allen, our long-time supplier and friend, has been making cheese for eleven years with a deep respect for the importance of good milk and traditional techniques. Kristen is also one of our most popular teachers. Her classes are an introduction to the world of artisan and handmade products, where simple ingredients, time and technique are all that is needed to make beautiful fresh cheeses.
We asked Kristen about what she loves most about the cheese-making process, she replied, “it slows me down and I love how two people can make the same cheese, but their cheeses will turn out completely different from one another”. Producers like Kristen value variance and unhurried pleasures over convenience. These are the lessons we learn from taking the time to understand how beginning with a quality ingredient such as local milk inspires artisan producers to add very little other than time and craft to transform it into endless delicious potential.