The results from our Cultures Trial project are in!

02 November 2015

Our Cultures Trial project has reached its final – and tastiest – stage! The scientific team have made the cultures, the cheesemakers have made the cheeses, and a crack team of experts evaluated the results at a blind tasting last month.

The project is the first of its kind in Australia, and one of only a few similar projects in the world, where cheesemakers are collaborating with scientists to develop cultures made exclusively from the milk of individual farms.

It was the result of a Technology Development Voucher scheme offered by Business Victoria, for businesses (in this case, a group of Victorian cheesemakers) to partner with a technology provider (in this case, DIAL) to do things such as develop prototypes for commercial feasibility, and access emerging technologies to improve products.

Project background

Three main cheesemakers from Victoria - Holy Goatl'Artisan Cheese and Prom Country Cheese - provided fresh, raw milk in October 2014. These producers were selected because they all source milk from their own (or a neighbouring single) herd, from goats, cows and sheep, respectively. Spring milk was provided as it is microbiologically richer than milk produced in other seasons.

Each participating cheesemaker identified a partner cheesemaker in another state, who also produces cheese made from the same milk type. Holy Goat partnered with Nimbin Valley Dairy in NSW, l’Artisan Cheese partnered with Pyengana Dairy in Tasmania, and Prom Country Cheese partnered with Pecora Dairy in NSW. The partner cheesemakers would all be involved in the cheesemaking stage of the project.

What the scientists did

The Cheese & Cultured Products team at DIAL (Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd), lead by Dr Ian Powell, examined the microbes present in the raw milk, and identified which species were present. They then selected individual species that were considered to be safe and that were likely to produce complexity in the resulting cheeses. The chosen microbes were isolated and grown in the lab, then re-assembled into culture blends from each milk source, resulting in prototype cultures that could be used by the cheesemakers.

What the cheesemakers did

Over the past few months, the participating ASCA cheesemakers have been experimenting with the new cultures by producing multiple batches of the same cheese, made with different cultures. Each cheesemaker was required to produce a “control” batch of cheese, made using their normal starter cultures and according to their normal recipe. They then made experimental batches using either the “indigenous” cultures from their own milk type, or the “superblend” of cultures from all three milk types, utilised as “adjunct cultures”. Adjunct cultures are used in addition to normal acidifying starter cultures, to enhance the flavours, textures and other characteristics of cheeses. 

Blind tasting

A team of experts conducted a blind tasting of around 36 cheeses on Wednesday 28th October, in Melbourne. The tasting panel worked in pairs to systematically evaluate different batches of each cheese, to determine the differences - if any - between them. All of the cheeses were coded and presented as if for judging in a cheese show (thanks to incredible work by ASCA Executive Officer, Louise Wellington, and ASCA Secretary, Alison Lansley) so the panel members didn't know which adjunct cultures had been used, or if they were just the normal cheeses. At the end of the blind tasting, the details were revealed, with some fascinating - and surprising - results.

 

Left: Tasting panel members Olivia Sutton, Victor Persinette, Miranda Sharp, Russell Smith & Sonia Cousins discussing their findings; Right: Tasting panel members Richard Cornish and Sonia Cousins sharing the results with the rest of the group.

Results

For each cheese, multiple batches were presented - 1 made as a control, 1 made with "indigenous" cultures from that milk type (sheep, cow or goat), and 1 made with a "superblend" of cultures from all three milk types. The following cheeses were chosen as the best examples from each of the three main participating cheesemakers, displaying distinct differences between each batch, depending on the cultures used:

  

Left: Holy Goat "Nectar Tomme" (semi-hard goat's milk); Middle: l'Artisan "Mountain Man" (Reblochon-style, cow's milk); Right: Prom Country "Venus Blue" (sheep's milk)

HOLY GOAT "NECTAR TOMME"

The control batch was a few weeks older than the other two, which were both made within a week of each other. This probably explains why the tasting panel identified the control batch as the strongest, and their least favourite. The batch made with indigenous goat milk cultures emerged as the clear favourite, with the most flavour complexity and best representation of the style. 

L'ARTISAN "MOUNTAIN MAN"

Three batches were presented. The tasting panel found a stand-out cheese in the batch made with the superblend cultures - they commented that it was the strongest, most complex and well-balanced. They found that the control batch was the least flavoursome and mildest, despite being 2 weeks older than the other two batches. All of the cheeses had consistent textures and were great representations of the style.

PROM COUNTRY "VENUS BLUE"

All were well-balanced and complex, and all were distinctly different. Interestingly, the tasting panel picked the control batch as the most complex, but also as the most subtle. The batches made with the indigenous sheep and superblend cultures had amplified flavours that masked some of the subtleties present in the regular batch of cheese. They were all, however, very good cheeses that were very well made.

What happens next?

The results from the blind tasting need to be analysed in more detail, to determine whether the various cultures resulted in overall improved cheese flavour, and whether location-specific flavours were identified. ASCA will also review the cost, technical feasibility and overall benefits of the trial. Once this is known, we can decide whether it is worth considering routine production of location-specific cultures for use by our artisan cheesemakers.

Are the cheeses available for sale?

As this was a trial, the cheeses are not yet available for commercial sale. But there will be an opportunity to taste some of the cheeses at a public event in Melbourne on Wednesday 25 November 2015. Click on the link below for more details and to purchase tickets.

Click to view more info

Other News

ASCA cheesemakers star in Delicious. Produce Awards

15 August 2017

The Delicious. Produce Awards celebrate the best Australian ethical, sustainable, delectable produce. The 2017 awards ... view details →

ASCA Newsletter - December edition out now!

22 December 2016

As another year draws to a close, the makers and mongers are probably wondering... view details →

Event Report: ASCA Cheese, Wine & Talk Event, Melbourne

22 December 2016

ASCA members and guests enthusiastically embraced the opportunity ... view details →

Event Report: The Science of Artisan Cheese

22 December 2016

The second bi-annual Science of Artisan Cheese Conference was recently held in the UK... view details →

ASCA Newsletter - August edition out now!

06 August 2016

We know many in the Australian cheese community are experiencing tough times... view details →

Event Report: Cheese Lovers Festival, Hunter Valley

26 June 2016

It was a devine display of delicious dairy at the inaugural Cheese Lovers Festival... view details →

ASCA Newsletter - May edition out now!

17 May 2016

For many in the artisan cheese community, Autumn is a time to slow down a little... view details →

Applications open for AGDA Deputy Chief Judge

16 May 2016

The position of deputy chief judge of the Australian Grand Dairy Awards is now open... view details →

New cheesemaking cultures now available in Australia

12 May 2016

ASCA member Cheeselinks is thrilled to announce the availability of Hafnia alvei... view details →

Event Report: Cheesemaking workshops with Ivan Larcher

10 May 2016

ASCA member Carmen Bateson reports on the recent workshop in Melbourne... view details →

ASCA Technical Forum now linked to ASCA website

01 May 2016

Members can now access the Technical Forum login page directly from this website... view details →

ASCA Cheese Cultures Trial featured in culture magazine

11 March 2016

Can cheese made from pasteurised milk convey terroir? Read on to find out... view details →

ASCA Newsletter - March edition out now!

01 March 2016

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2016! Our new Committee is settling in... view details →

Advice warning on iodine-based teat dips from the ADPF

28 February 2016

Cheesemakers and dairy farmers should read the attached information sheet on NPE's... view details →

Calling all cheesemakers in Victoria!

22 February 2016

The Melbourne Farmers Markets is looking for cheesemakers to attend all markets... view details →

Dairy Australia/NCDE Webinar series launched for 2016

02 February 2016

The Semester 1 webinar program for Australian dairy manufacturers has been launched... view details →

New Aussie cheese guide launched by Dairy Australia

01 January 2016

Cheese Please! A new Aussie cheese guide for retailers and cheeselovers... view details →

STORY: Making cheese in the Swiss Alps

10 November 2015

The sound of a European summer is the symphony of bells individually forged... view details →

Update on new raw milk cheese regulations

23 June 2015

State dairy regulators have been working together to implement the new standards... view details →