Sydney Royal Agricultural Society Cheese and Dairy Awards 2012.
We’ve always been prompt each year to trumpet the results of the Sydney Royal Agricultural Society Cheese awards as soon as they’re announced. That’s because we’re fanatical card carrying cheese lovers (see Russell Smith’s Talk and Cheese section of this site.) This year we’re making a slight change, not entirely arbitary. We’ve been helping Russell with his new guide for judges of Dairy Products, to accompany his Dairy Australia Cheese Judging manual. That has lifted our understanding (from almost ignorance, but I did grow up near a country butter factory) of how important are the flavours and defects are of the one ingredient that all these products call Mother. Milk.
We’ve taken lots of images and video of cheese judging over the years, but we didn’t have any pictures of judges in white coats judging milk, to go in the manual. So we attended the Dairy Products and Chocolate judging day at the Sydney Showground last week. We didn’t spend much time on the chocolate section of the Awards, which is really just about crafting imported chocolate, adding local ingredients. It’s something we’ve always thought was a bit outside the important role of the RAS in promoting and stimulating our local primary producers. When we saw the tables covered in diverse shapes of chopped, crumbled and sliced chocolates we relented a bit. And especially since one of the judges was a local Canberra producer mate John Marshall. See the image at the bottom of the page.
So we looked at milk, the yoghurts but didn’t stay for the ice-cream and gelato. We did get to meet the International Guest Judge and third-generation French affineur Hervé Mons who was impressed with the large number of cheeses in the Australian market.
“My first impression as a judge for this event was marked by the general quality of Australian cheeses,” Monsieur Mons said (in the press release). “Overall, the standard was very high, demonstrating understanding and experience. The areas that surprised me the most in terms of quality were the blue cheeses and the yoghurts, where quality was extremely high.” (There’s a short video from US Whole Food Market about Mons work here)
Seethe full awards list here and an explanation of the various classes. They’re quite specific, but not enough so that your wasabi yoghurt wont be judged against the pomegranite and pistacchio praline swirl one. For a small producer, it’s often hard to know what category your product fits into (and has the best chance of a medal). The cultured butter products for example included one bottled jar with truffle flavouring, and one with brandy added. It’s one of the tasks of the Chief Judge to play traffic cop when there is a dispute, and make sure they end up on the right black-marker number, on the long row of butcher’s paper-covered trestle tables.
Another role the Chief Judge plays is to recognise when a product category is ‘trending’ and will need its own space next year, this time it was a discussion on drinking yoghurts that are now just part of the general yoghurt class. You heard it here first.
The RAS Award’s press release (thank you Anna and Philippa) points out that all twelve first-time exhibitors in the Cheese and Dairy Produce Show had a 100 per cent strike rate, picking up Gold or Silver medals in their respective classes. You can imagine how that impacts on judges who have watched and assessed the quality of a regular rotating group of exhibitors to suddenly find not just a new producer, but one of Gold medal standard. Twelve times over the two days.
There was an induction into the equivalent of the Australian Cheese Hall of Fame, for five cheeses selected for the highly coveted Australian Cheeseboard Perpetual Trophy. No surprises here, just recognition of five consistently great cheeses from four of our best cheesemakers .
• Woodside Cheese Wrights, (Woodside, SA) – Monet
• Jindi Cheese, (Jindivick, Vic)
– Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red
• Jindi Cheese, (Jindivick, Vic)
– Old Telegraph Road Heritage Blue
• Lion – Dairy and Drinks (Burnie, Tas)
– Heidi Farm Raclette
• King Island Dairy (Currie, King Island, Tas)
– Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar
(This cheese was also awarded Champion Cheddar Cheese and Champion Bovine Cheese).
When the RAS and other Dairy Awards are judging milk ( and much of these points relate to products made with milk) they’re looking for the best possible example of the particular class the milk is entered in. Chief Judge of the Sydney RAS Cheese and Dairy Awards Russell Smith pointed out to us some of the things that can stop a glass of milk from being a Gold Award winner.
Acid – This acid or sour ‘off ‘flavour results from acid producing bacteria converting lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid.
Bitter – The two most common causes of bitterness are weed taints and microorganisms.
Cooked – This off flavour is caused by overheating milk during pasteurisation. It usually diminishes with time after pasteurisation unlike the more intense “scorched” and “caramel” off flavour which intensifies with time. (UHT milk can often taste ‘cooked’ because it is – Fred comment)
Feed – These off flavours are produced when dairy animals are fed certain feeds that produce aromatic notes, particularly in the three hours before milking. They are not necessarily unpleasant.
Flat – This defect is not detected by odour. It has to do with mouthfeel and lack of sweetness. A dull watery sensation is observed.
Foreign – These off flavours may be the result of direct contamination of the milk or they may be absorbed. Examples of direct contamination include, detergents, disinfectants and sanitisers. Milk may also absorb the fumes from engines etc.
Oxidised (light induced) This off flavour occurs when milk is exposed to sunlight or prolonged fluorescent light. The odour is distinctive and reminiscent of wet cardboard. Homogenised milk is more susceptible to the light induced off flavour, whole unhomogenised milk is more susceptible to the metal induced off flavour.
Rancid – The odour of rancid milk derives from the volatile free fatty acids formed as the result of the action of lipase on the milk fat. Although complex in flavour the predominant flavour is that generated by the volatile free fatty acids and is often described as baby vomit. There is a large variation in the tolerance of individuals to rancidity. While one person may find a sample extremely unpleasant, another may find it not at all objectionable. Obviously some individuals have a much higher threshold for free fatty acids.
Unclean – This off flavour is suggestive of the aroma of a poorly maintained barn and leaves a persistent unclean aftertaste. At lower levels of the alkyl phenols responsible for this off flavour it may also be called “cowy” or “barny”.
Russell’s references: The Sensory Evaluation of Dairy Products (second edition). Clark, Costello,Drake and Bodyfelt. 2009
Dairy Product Sensory Analysis and Judging. Neil Willman 2007.
Butter Grading. Errol V Sigley. Qld. Dept. of Primary Industries. 1993.
2012 CHEESE & DAIRY PRODUCE RESULTS
MOST SUCCESSFUL DAIRY PRODUCE EXHIBITOR
Winner SERENDIPITY ICE CREAM Marrickville NSW
MOST SUCCESSFUL BUTTER EXHIBITOR
Winner FONTERRA AUSTRALIA PTY LTD (SPREYTON TASMANIA)
Winner FONTERRA AUSTRALIA PTY LTD (SPREYTON TASMANIA) – Duck River Premium 500G
Winner ELGAAR FARM CHEESE from DELORAINE TAS – Elgaar organic Cream-on-top Milk. Elgaar is fully organic and run by Joe & Antonia Gretschmann. They milk a herd that’s 85% pure bred organic Jersey cows and 15% organic Fresian Holstein cows. I tried the milk, it’s un-homogenised and although the judges would have had the (cream on) top bits, it was still beautifully creamy. That’s the Jersey cows contribution. I confess I swallowed, the whole glass.
Beside it is Gold medal winner MALENY DAIRIES from MALENY QLD – Farmers Choice Milk
Maleny Dairies is owned and run by Harold & Dorothy Hopper with sons Ross & Keith and daughter Kay. (Oh, and Peter Slipper is their local MP.)
CHAMPION CHEDDAR CHEESE
Winner KING ISLAND DAIRY, CURRIE, King Island, Tas – Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar
Winner KING ISLAND DAIRY CURRIE, King Island Tas.- Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar
CHAMPION CHEESE OF SHOW
Winner GRANDVEWE CHEESES Woodbridge Tas. – Sapphire Blue
Diane Rae lists herself on the Grandvewe website as the Cheese Maker and Entrepreneur. Her bio says she was a psychologist and financial planner, who moved with her partner Alan to Tasmania from Queensland in 2001. They’ve been farming organically and their blue sheeps milk cheese, Sapphire Blue was described by Russell Smith as’ extraordinarily good, something special’. Grandvewe were a first time exhibitor this year. Well done Diane and Grandvewe