The Produce Index: Long Paddock cheese

Published on 28 June 2021

Photo: Long Paddock cheesemaker Ivan Larcher (credit: Richard Cornish)

A new dairy and school in country Victoria is set to raise the stakes in Australian artisanal cheesemaking.

What
Long Paddock is an artisan dairy making mostly traditional French styles of dairy and cheese. Organic milk from a mixed herd containing Australian Dairy Shorthorn, a traditional dairy breed, underpins a range which includes deep yellow cultured butter, and eight cheeses, from the white bloomy-rind Brie-style called Sundew to Banksia, a nutty semi-hard cheese.

Where
Long Paddock Cheese factory, shop, and The Cheese School are in the historic Mill in Castlemaine.

Who
Ivan and Julie Larcher were making cheese on their farm near Limoges, France, and consulting to cheesemakers across the globe when they received an offer from Australia they couldn’t refuse. Former lawyer Alison Lansley and Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda from Holy Goat worked tirelessly for years to bring the couple and their young family to Australia. After years of navigating the immigration labyrinth, their school and cheesery opened in autumn 2021. Anthony Femia, posting on the Instagram account of his cheese store, Maker and Monger, described Ivan as a “a game changer” for Australian cheese, saying he’d had a hand in developing “a majority of the world’s best new cheeses in the US, UK and France”.

Why It's Different
Ivan Larcher has a holistic approach to dairy, working closely with his farmers to ensure the herd's health, going as far as having the udders cleaned with a special wood fibre to improve udder health and milk hygiene. The milk is handled carefully to prevent the development of lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat. This immaculate standard of care continues in the cheesemaking with small batches of cow's milk cheese prepared by hand using a careful selection of cultures to develop texture, flavour and fungal growth to help the cheeses mature. Ivan is obsessed with the flora that develops on cheese; he’s careful to optimise conditions in the maturing rooms for the beneficial fungi. 

It’s Ivan's wealth of knowledge and experience that set his cheeses apart. The rippled geotrichum rind on the lactic-set Silver Wattle sees the texture change from fudgy to smooth and creamy over its ripening period, the flavour and aroma moving at the same time from clean and tangy to moody and funky. The tomme-style Banksia sits somewhere between a raclette and gouda and has a firm but elastic texture that melts beautifully revealing the high, complex scents beyond its foundation notes of earth and roasted nuts. But it’s the Driftwood that’s making the biggest splash for Long Paddock. A washed-rind cheese in the style of Vacherin, wrapped in spruce bark, Driftwood develops complex aromas that layer buttery, forest floor, grass, hay with much darker and adult aromas as the cheese matures.

Who's a Fan?
Sonia and Nick Anthony from Masons of Bendigo are strong supporters, using the Iron Bark and Banksia cheeses in sauces to add layers of flavour. They also let them take centre stage on their cheeseboard. Sonia worked in a cheese section of a food store in Singapore, where she developed an affinity for French raw milk cheeses. "Eating Long Paddock Cheese is like going back to France and buying those cheeses from a village where they have been making cheeses for centuries," she says. The Anthonys have been working with Jodie Pillinger from Blumes Historic Bakery in Harcourt, where Long Paddock crème fraîche is used to finish pizza. "The other day, we baked the Driftwood, which is matured in spruce bark, in the wood-fired oven," she says. “Sensational." Anthony Femia from Maker and Monger, meanwhile, says the Driftwood is “the closest we will ever come in this country to experiencing the holy grail, Mont d’Or”.

Buy
Head to the Long Paddock Cheese store adjacent to the school and next to the cheesery at The Mill at 9 Walker Street, Castlemaine. On winter weekends, look out for their outrageously hot and gooey raclette, tartiflette and fondue.  A selection from the range is also sold in Melbourne at Maker and Monger, Prahran Market; Harper and Blohm, Brunswick; and Ripe Cheese, Queen Victoria Market, and Long Paddock Cheeses are now available for sale to restaurants via sales@longpaddockcheese.com.au, while The Cheese School offers regular cheesemaking and cheese appreciation classes

By Richard Cornish

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