What is it like to be a cheesemaker in Australia? Recently we were approached by a Swedish Podcaster and Cheese Enthusiast, Johan who hosts the podcast and website Ostpodden. He was visiting friends in Australia and had tried our cheese. He was really interested in our company, and Australian cheesemaking. We got together a little while ago, and he and Michael sat down to chat about our business, our product and the farming and cheesemaking industry in Australia.
The history of Olympus Cheese and the rise in Mediterranean cheese popularity
Olympus Cheese have been in business since 1974. Michael and Desiree have owned the business since the mid 90’s. In this time they have seen the interest in cheese, and particularly Mediterranean cheese grow. Their factory, which still remains less than 10km from Brisbane’s CBD, has grown from very small premises to a much bigger operation.
“20 years ago no one really knew a lot about halloumi, or fetta or even ricotta except for the Greek communities or the Italian communities. Because those were the cheeses that they knew and what they had grown up with. So basically we’ve been trying to grow the market, introduce people to our cheeses over the years,” Michael tells Christian.
Michael attributes much of the rising popularity of Mediterranean cheese to increased travel to Mediterranean countries. Additionally he says the boom in TV cooking shows and celebrity chefs has helped.
Supporting local farmers
Christian asks Michael about where the milk comes from. This is a topic we are passionate about here at Olympus Cheese. We use only Queensland milk for our cheesemaking and we buy raw milk directly from the farmer, which we pasteurise ourselves. We do pay more per litre. But,we believe it is essential to help sustain and grow the Queensland dairy industry.
“We support our local farmers in our area… In Queensland we have lost a lot of farmers because of the deregulation of the milk industry and so they weren’t getting good enough money for their milk. So they would close up the factory or close their farm down.”
Why not sheep and goat’s milk cheese?
Christian asked Michael why Olympus Cheese don’t make Mediterranean cheese with sheep and goat’s milk. Michael explained there are only a few farmers who farm sheep and goat in Queensland.
“The problem is getting the milk… The farmers aren’t all in close proximity to us, so we’d really need milk that is fresh especially with goat and sheep… There’s not a lot of goat and sheep farmers in Queensland…and generally they would all be small scale. Some of the other big goat cheese makers probably down in Victoria, you’re talking 500, 600 goats at a time. Very specialised, so the people farming with goat and sheep [in Queensland] probably you find they end up using their own milk to make goat and sheep milk cheeses,” Michael says.
He says for many farmers, this is a smart way of adding value to their farm and for their milk.
How best to enjoy Olympus Cheese?
From halloumi to fetta to ricotta, there are many ways to get the most out of our products. Michael explains to Christian his favourite ways to enjoy Olympus Cheese.
“Halloumi…the most popular way is people pan fry it or grill it up and so you’ve got this crispiness on the outside and soft in the middle maybe a squeeze of lemon juice, or even have it with your breakfast if you’re having bacon and eggs. Or if you’re having a salad add it to your salad,” Michael says.
He also added that you can also enjoy halloumi uncooked, which is the traditional way it is eaten in Cyprus. Very refreshing sliced with some watermelon or rockmelon.
“Fetta you know traditionally fetta is used in salads, but you can make dips with fetta, different dips.. There’s a whole lot of ways that fetta can be used.”
Ricotta is also a product which is often underrated, and which Michael tells Christian you can also bake.
“Bake the ricotta up and serve it you know maybe warmed up… That is very much the Italian way it’s done. So it looks like it’s baked on the outside, and when you cut it up it’s still got the white of the ricotta.”
If you’re not sure how to bake it up, we do produce our own baked ricotta, which can be eaten straight from the packet, or warmed up.
Hear the entire podcast
There is so much more they talked about, on cheese in general as well as much more on the changing cheese culture in Australia. They even talked about Swedish cheese – which most Australians would not be familiar with!
Head to Christian’s podcast to hear the whole episode. We had a great time chatting with Christian who obviously shares our passion for the craft of cheesemaking. You can listen to the Ostpodden podcast via his website or listen and subscribe on iTunes.
NOTE: You may hear Swedish at first, but for all you non-Swedish speakers don’t worry, the interview is in English!
More ideas for using Olympus Cheese products
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Greek Yoghurt is so good for you – how do you get more of it into your diet? Here are three different ways to use it to keep your new year’s health goals.