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Producer & The Chef Series - Debra Allard, Cheeses Loves You

Producer and the Chef series with : Debbie Allard, Cheeses Loves You
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Welcome to the Producer & The Chef Series!

Chef Ally Waddell will be interviewing one local producer each month to showcase the incredible dedication of our suppliers in producing the highest quality products available in Australia.
Our first producer in the series is Debra Allard from Cheeses Loves You, an artisan cheese maker here in the Northern Rivers.  She is not only a cheese maker, but a farmer and a teacher as well.

Chef Ally interviewed her this last week at the Byron Farmer's Market.

 

- How long has Allard Dairy and cheeses loves you been established?

200 acres was purchased by Jims great grand father for 200 pounds in 1895 in a ballot. The Government loaned the money on the proviso the farm would be cleared for either a cane farm or dairy. So a dairy was decided and three generations later it closed down. That was 40 years ago. Jim decided to reopen the dairy so he could produce the milk so I could make cheese, that was almost 4 years ago and we rebuilt the dairy and attached a cheese factory. As Jim milks the cows in the morning  the milk I need flows straight into my pasteurizer, its never been chilled. I take approximately 1200 litres per week and the rest is picked up by a milk tanker and processed by Norco, a farmer owned business.
We set ourselves up to have two businesses. I run the cheese operation and Jim runs the dairy. It is a 7 days a week operation and is very intense.

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Deb Allard's Cows

- Tell us briefly all that you make.

My goal was to make a cheese that someone will like. Everyone likes something different so I eventually stopped at 25 different products. I have a range of white mould soft cheese, about 6 hard cheeses, a blue, fresh cheese like ricotta, stracchino, mozzarella and fermented milk such as natural yoghurt and kefir.

 

- Your products are of outstanding quality what is your ethos behind them?

Small batches are the secret and I’m the only one making the cheese. I can tell  if there could be a problem so I can fix it – this happens all the way through the process even knowing what is happening to the herd. Each time we introduce an ingredient in their diet it can affect the cheese. The Claude (Brie) is the one that triggers noticeable change if we adjust their diet.  

 

- My personal favourite is your little Aud cheese, a truly remarkable product, what was your inspiration behind this cheese?

I love the French version of Little Aud which is Chaource.  It’s what they call a Lactic Acid cheese, the pasteurized milk is set at room temperature for 24 hours with a mesophilic (mild temperature) culture, white mould powder and a tiny amount of non-animal rennet (Byron shire attracts vegetarians…) the next day the curd is scooped into tall hoops with small holes to drain for another 24 hours. Day 3 the firm curd is carefully cut into small rounds and lightly salted with Olssen salt and the Little Aud has a slight dusting of ash, Chaource has no ash. Day 4 the Little Auds are transferred into my aging room at 12C and high humidity for a week or two, or three if you like a stronger version. This means the cheese is at room temperature for up to 3 or 4 days. People who rush their cheese home to put it in the fridge because they are scared of it getting warm make me laugh.  I have called it Little Aud because my 2nd daughter Audrey is petit just like the cheese.

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Debra's Cheese aging

- Other than collaborating with handsome talented chefs, what is the best part about your job?

The handsome chefs make all this hard work so worth it! Ally, you are so so supportive! I love the support I get from the food industry in this business and I love being a part of it. Turning beautiful rich milk into a whole range of cheese is amazing. I sometimes imagine how certain cheeses were developed, who accidentally dropped curd into hot water then discovered mozzarella! Someone with excellent note taking skills!

 

- Biggest challenge to date at the dairy.

Oh my Lordie – so many challenges! We had to buy all our herd in to start with, no farmer sells his best cow so we bought the worst. They were sickly, poor animals and we have invested big money in the best feed for them, the best care and thankfully we have come through that hurdle. They now are healthy beautiful, bossy Queens. We breed our own future milkers now so have a generational record for future success.
Cyclone Debbie (… I know right!) was a disaster where we lost power for 2 days and we had to call on friends to help hand milk the cows for 2 days. The milk was wasted but we had to keep the cows from drying up and getting sick. The first day we had 7 of us milking all day, the next day we had 12 so could take shifts and that night when the power came back on we were so relieved! We now have a very large generator that runs the dairy and cheese factory perfectly in any black out.
After Cyclone Debbie the rain stopped coming. We have had 3 dry years and 2019 was so bad. Ironically the dry weather means great markets and lots of sales to buy the cows feed. The Queens kept their condition and came through it beautifully.

The worry of vegans coming onto our property made me think twice about the animal photos I uploaded onto social media.

 

- Anything else worth mentioning?

I have thrown out the rule book with my business model. I don’t wrap the white mould cheese, it takes time and is a waste of packaging. I sell most of my cheese at the farmers market where I can talk the customer through my product and I also get their feedback. I only deliver within a 20km radius of my factory, I say no if it doesn’t suit me. I make it, sell it, live and breathe it!

 

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Chef Ally and Deb at the Byron Farmers Market
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