David and Anne Brown founded Milawa Cheese Company in 1988, making their home in the historic Milawa Butter Factory, in the foothills of the Victorian Alps. Their mission was to make delicious Australian farmhouse cheeses inspired by European methods.
Read more, ‘Introducing Milawa Cheese’
Thirty years on, the Milawa Cheese Co has now had an injection of new thinking, with Ceridwen Brown, CEO and second generation Milawa Cheese family, taking over the day-to-day management of the Victorian institution. Of course, growing up in the family business means that she’s been involved in Milawa her entire life. She’s even had a beautiful goat’s cheese named after her!
After having spent five years working with prominent English cheesemongers, Neal’s Yard Dairy, in London, Ceridwen has learned a thing or two about the cheese business from an outside perspective. She brings this experience and managerial acumen to her role in the family business.
Ceridwen is keen to see Australians embrace a ‘better connection’ to their food, including having conversations with local producers and embracing a deeper understanding of where food we eat on a daily basis comes from. She is also a passionate advocate of Australian local cheeses. She knows how incredible the cheese produced here in Oz actually is. And not just by Milawa Cheese Co, but other incredible cheesemakers as well.
We were incredibly lucky to interview Ceridwen. We found out a little bit about the day-to-day life of a cheesemaker, about the delicious Milawa cheeses and about what might be next for this iconic Australian cheese monger.
An Interview with Ceridwen Brown of Milawa Cheese
CT—Can you tell us about a typical day in the life of a cheesemaker?
CD—I’ll take some artistic license here…. Waking early on a frosty winter morning and walking into the warm embrace of the make room, with its familiar milky smell. Going to check on cheeses made in the days before to ensure they are all maturing properly.
Receiving the milk for that day's make and chatting with the farmer about what the animals have been eating and how they are coping with the weather, before starting the cheesemaking process all over again.
Watching the pale liquid being turned from thousands of litres of milk into hundreds of little wheels of cheese in the course of just one day is magical. The feeling of soft warm curds against your skin as you agitate them in their whey is one of the highlights of the day. By the end of the make day there is a great feeling of accomplishment, as you put your ‘babies’ to bed for the night, before going home to start it all over again tomorrow.
CT—What is the creative process in making a new cheese?
CD—Pretty much all cheese is made from four ingredients: milk, rennet, starter cultures and salt. It's hard to create anything entirely new. However, with just these four ingredients you can make a plethora of different flavours and styles. Every tiny step of the cheesemaking process can alter the end result – how warm the milk is, how warm the room is, how long it drains for, what size you cut the curd to, what shape you make it in, what mould growths you encourage, how long you keep it for and at what temperature, etc. This is the incredibly exciting, but daunting, part of handmade cheese.
When we think about making a new cheese at Milawa, we look for inspiration from Europe, cheeses that we have tried and loved, and we think about what aspects of that cheese make it so delicious. Then we start to play, pulling all the different cheesemaking levers to end up with a cheese that is either quite like the inspiration or completely different, but also delicious.
CT—What is your all-time favourite cheese? Why?
CD—Milawa Aged Blue or Colston Bassett Stilton – both have a rich, almost meaty, flavour with a dense, creamy texture that just has you going back for more (and more and more). Some of the Irish goat's milk cheeses have been favourites, too. St Tola and Ticklemore I miss from my London cheese mongering days.
CT—What is your favourite cheese combo? How about toasted cheese combo?
CD—A salad of chèvre and roasted beetroot has everything going for it – sweetness, acidity, creaminess and bite.
My favourite toastie combination is blue cheese with crispy pancetta and a scrape of quince jelly. The very BEST baguette filling is Milawa Cheese’s Ceridwen (the cheese!) and strawberry jam!
CT—Any new cheeses or products in development that you'd like to share with us?
CD—Ummmm… maybe. We have been playing around with a few different things lately that we’re getting close to announcing but we aren’t quite there yet. Think local truffles, grape must, think spring flowers… not necessarily all in the one cheese. We’ll keep you posted on how our trials turn out.
CT—What do you love to do when you're not eating, creating or thinking about cheese?
CD—When is that??? COVID really put my love of travel on pause. I have the itchiest feet in the world, so while waiting for the world to open up again, I created my own little world, Cooper, my son. He is the love of my life.
Our Favourite Milawa Cheeses
Thank you Ceridwen for your time and insight! And when it comes to loving Milawa Cheese, you’re preaching to the choir.
We love each of Milawa’s cheeses, which have been developed by adapting European ‘recipes’ to suit the cheesemaking conditions on their doorstep. We’re talking local cows, local goats and the local climate. And it’s clear that Ceridwen and the Milawa team understand that the best cheese responds to the seasons, and to the best of the seasonal milk.
Their attention to detail and single-minded determination have seen the Milawa team go from a self-described ‘city upstart’ to a Lonely Planet ‘absolute must stop in the Milawa gourmet region’. And all Milawa cheese is sustainably made, turned and washed by hand, making their incredible products a true labour of love.
What Milawa Cheese to Try?
Start with the quintessential Milawa Cheesemaker Pack. It’s a fantastic way to discover this pioneering Australian cheesemaking family in a winning combination of hard, soft, stinky and blue. We know you’ll love them, too.
And if you’re a keen chef, we really recommend cooking with Milawa Cheese. In fact, our resident chef, Jason Roberts, has crafted an incredible recipe for Milawa Blue Cheese Souffle. Fancy enough for a dinner party, and delicious enough to impress even the fussiest eaters, these souffles are as light as air, and as creamily satisfying as the best Milawa cheese.
Check out our shop for all the best cheeses, including Milawa Cheese Co cheeses!