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Getting started with homestead dairy - Gavin from the Greening of Gavin

Over the past few weeks I've interviewed small farmers who milk cows, goats and even a sheep, and now, in the last interview of the series, I have an interview with urban-farmer Gavin from the blogs The Greening of Gavin and of course, The Little Green Cheese, in which he documents his cheese-making tips and successes.  Gavin may not keep his own milking animal, but he certainly knows what to do with the milk and has plenty of good advice for those wanting to get started with homestead dairy.

Gavin: Thanks Liz for the opportunity once again to be part of one of your interview series. They are always great fun to write.  (Gavin also participated in getting started with growing your own and getting started with keeping chickens)

Gavin ready to teach cheese-making
Farmer Liz: Tell us about how you started making cheese.

Gavin: There is a long story to this. I grew up on a small dairy farm in South Australia. There was an abundance of milk, but we never made cheese. My parents made butter and cream but didn’t take the next step. The reason was that they didn’t have the knowledge passed down to them, and even if they did, ingredients were not readily available during the 1970’s.

Mind you, I often visited a Greek friends houses for lunch and was served delicious yoghurt and Feta. It was amazing cheese, and I didn’t taste that flavour again until I made my own for the first time in February 2009.

I attended a cheese making workshop at our local community house and with 10 other eager students learnt the art of cheese making. My very first cheese was Feta, because I wanted to experience the taste and texture of the Greek cheeses that I remembered from so long ago. My Feta did not disappoint. It was amazing.


FL: What cheese is a good place to start for those who haven’t made cheese before?

G: May I suggest that beginners start with either a Ricotta or a 30 minute Mozzarella. These two soft cheeses are easy to make, and are usually a quick success. I call them the “gateway cheeses” to a whole wider world of cheese making.

From there you can then try semi-hard cheeses and perfect the art, before trying something harder like a mould ripened Camembert or Blue cheese.

FL: How did you learn to make cheese? How do you suggest new cheese makers learn the craft?
G: As mentioned before, I took a cheese making class to understand the basics. I knew that was right for me, even though it was only 5 hours long and I gained limited understanding. It was all too fast. Quickly soon after, I purchased some cheese making books and studied further. I didn’t want to become a master cheese makers, just a successful home cheese maker that could make a decent wheel of cheese in my own kitchen.

However, I did find that the books that I bought and borrowed went into far too much detail, and has so much fluff padding them that they really were not for beginners. So guess what? After a few years of experience, I wrote my own cheese making book! It is called “Keep Calm & Make Cheese – The Beginners Guide to Cheese Making at Home”. I kept it simple and straight to the point so that anyone can make delicious cheese in their own home. It is quite a popular seller.
Gavin's excellent ebook
I also started a home cheese maker’s blog called Little Green Cheese, because there was limited information on the Internet for people like me. I put up modified recipes and tips, and even started a podcast where I interviewed home cheese makers just like myself. I learn so much when I conduct these interviews and it has helped me become a better cheese maker.

I suggest that anyone interested in the craft, pop on over and have a look at the blog. There is lots of free information posted within it.

FL: Have you tried using different milks? How does goat and cow milk compare?

I have found that not all milk is equal. The milk that you can buy in the supermarket has been tortured and only makes an average cheese. You need to add Calcium Chloride to the milk at the beginning of the cheese making process to revive the milk so that it will set a curd.

I prefer non-homogenised cow’s milk when I can get it because it sets a fantastic curd, and the final product is exceptional. I have only used raw cow’s milk twice, and must say that if you can get it, this is the best sort of milk to use. Because I share my cheese with friends, I also pasteurise any raw milk I use, which is a pretty simple process.

As for goats milk, I have used it twice to make Feta, because it gives the cheese a superior flavour than if just using cow’s milk. I can only get it from the supermarket, however that may change soon, because I have a friend who now owns a goat!

not all milk is equal...
FL: What is currently you biggest cheese making challenge?

G: My biggest challenge is sourcing good quality milk. I find that if you start with a great milk, you end up with great cheese. Not average cheese. Great cheese. Living in a suburban environment does not help, so I usually have to make do with second best which is non-homogenised milk.



FL: What is your advice to those considering making cheese?

G: Just do it. Cheese making is not difficult. If you can follow a recipe, buy a good cheese making book, and start with basic soft cheeses. You will have successful, delicious, homemade cheeses straight away which will give you the courage to make semi-hard cheeses. If struggle to learn from a book and are a visual sort of person, I made it easy for you! I recorded over 14 cheese making video tutorials that are available with my cheese making book, or free on YouTube at the Greening of Gavin channel.

FL:  Thanks Gavin, for sharing your experience with cheese-making!  Its so interesting to find out how you go started.  If you have any questions or comments for Gavin, please head over to his blog to join the discussion.



Interview with myself
Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture
Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow
Interview with Rose Petal
Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

If you want to know more about house cows, my eBook is available for purchase on Scribd.  Its only $4.99, and it includes lots of information about keeping a house cow in Australia.  There's more details about the eBook on my house cow eBook blog.  If you don't want to go through all the Scribd/paypal effort, just send me an email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com and I can arrange to email it to you instead.

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