The idea of making cheese started in John & Toni’s heads soon after they moved down to the new farm, so they used the opportunity of a trip East to visit as many small dairies as they could find. Jim & Augusta thought it was a good idea, & when they saw the advertisement for the Kervella Dairy in the Farm Weekly, they encouraged John & Toni to go & have a look. Fired with enthusiasm, they followed, & the deal was done! Fortunately there was little time spent on feasibility studies, market research or other businesslike activity or we would probably never have started.
Gabrielle Kervella started making goats’ cheese at Gidgegannup in 1984, using the traditional techniques she had learnt over three years in France. When she wanted to retire, she sold the house & land separately from the dairy business, so we bought everything but the name, and moved it all down to our farm at Redmond.
It took the whole of 2008 to build a new shed, and rebuild the cheeseroom inside it, with all the equipment needed to milk the goats and make the cheese. Gabrielle and Alan came and taught John & Toni to make the cheese in the middle of the year, so by the time we got permission to sell on Christmas Eve 2008 they had been milking goats by hand and making cheese for five months.
Dairy Goats are delicate creatures, they don’t like wet weather, and are not keen on green grass, they prefer to browse on trees and shrubs. Fortunately we have a lot of bush on our farm, and patches of reeds and other rough pasture which they go out to “picnic” on. At night they are shut in to the dome roofed shelter, with hay and free access minerals. They get their grain during milking, twice a day.
Sales started at the Albany Farmers’ Market on the Saturday after Christmas, and Jim has taken up the challenge of market sales very readily. It soon became apparent that one market wasn’t enough, so when Kalamunda started a Farmers’ Market in May, Jim & Augusta were in it. Gradually the system has evolved so that Jim does the Albany Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Albany Boatshed Market on Sundays every week, and Augusta drives up to Perth on alternate weeks to deliver to shops, and attend Mt Claremont Market on Saturday and Kalamunda Market on Sunday. They both enjoy the interaction with the public and the opportunity to test new products on knowledgeable buyers.
Ringwould Dairy products are all made to the highest standard, the milk is produced without chemicals, and all the cheesemaking is done by hand. In particular, the goats’ milk is processed immediately after milking, to prevent it developing a strong “goaty” flavour, and the finished cheese is wrapped, by hand, in triple layered paper imported from France. This paper allows the cheese to breathe, so that any whey which drains off can evaporate instead of going rancid around the cheese. These are the main causes of the bitter taste which puts people off goats’ cheese.
In order to cater for the people who want a healthy product, but not goats’ cheese, we are now making yoghurt and cheese from cows’ milk, currently coming from our neighbours’ dairy, but when we get some more community members we hope to milk our own cows. Using whole, un-homogenised milk straight from the cow, without travelling hundreds of kilometers, our pasteurised milk has a much nicer flavour than the commercial product. Made into yoghurt with only whey protein added and the best culture to product maximum pro-biotics, it is an excellent health food. We are also draining the yoghurt to make Labneh, hand rolled into balls, and marinated in sunflower oil.
Quark is the northern European spreadable curd, it has less "zing" than Blanc and is versatile for using with fruit or vegetables. Wolfgang Frankl at the Albany Entertainment Centre uses it a lot.
Caillot is cows' curd with herbs and garlic added, delicious on bread, in sandwiches, or as an instant pasta sauce, it is like the French Boursin, but of course we can't call it that.
In July 2011 we launched the Minstrel, a cow's milk log, ashed and mould ripened, which is proving very popular at the markets. We are also selling cows' milk Fetta, marinated in grapeseed oil with herbs and garlic.
Goats' milk Fetta, marinated in grapeseed oil, is proving very popular and we have had to restrict supply to restaurants in order to have enough for the market customers. Goats' milk yoghurt is an ongoing study, being very suceptible to the seasonal changes in the milk. The flavour is fresh and clean, but it is sometimes rather runny, saves putting so much milk on the cereal!