Oh My Goat
Holy Goat Cheese, Sutton Grange
You don’t get to be award-winning cheesemakers without loving cheese. An overflowing trophy cabinet and legions of cheeseophile fans across Australia are evidence that Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda, owners and cheesemakers at Holy Goat Cheese in Sutton Grange, truly love their work. But it’s quickly apparent that cheese is not the only thing they love about life on their 82-hectare farm.
“One of the best things about making goats cheese is that you get to have a goatherd,” says Carla. “Goats are the most gorgeous animals – easy, friendly and they come to a call. They know us - the older goats will come over and acknowledge us whenever we’re in the paddock.”
“I always say to people: if you’re feeling a bit down, just go out and hang out with the goatherd. You can’t feel bad when you have a herd of goats coming up to you and schmoozing you and wanting to be patted. They’re like a therapeutic community.”
Meurs and Monda bought their farm, a gorgeous undulating property with views to Mount Alexander, native grass pastures and an area of intact woodland, in 1999 with the express purpose of it becoming an organic goat dairy (they gained official organic certification in 2002). The former school teachers had worked with goats on farms in Ireland and Western Australia prior to moving to Sutton Grange, so they’d done their research and knew they wanted to make cheese.
So why goat cheese?
“Goat milk is distinct and gives you different opportunities for cheesemaking than you get with cow milk,” says Carla. “The fat bubbles in goat milk are much finer so they don’t rise to the top which means you can get gorgeous texture with fermented cheese.”
“We make a very particular, traditional style of cheese that the French developed,” says Carla. “It involves a long, slow 24-hour fermentation process that I think really captures the particular specialness of goat milk.”
The Holy Goat herd, free-ranging and usually kept at just under 100 goats, is milked twice a day, morning and evening. The milk is pasteurised and then turned into cheese within 24 hours. Meurs and Monda make four broad styles of cheese – fresh cheese, mature white mould, mature yeast rind and a brie-like penicillium camemberti cheese.
They recently brought out a goat and cow milk cheese called Nectar (named best cheese in Australia in the 2018 delicious magazine Produce Awards) and are constantly refining the styles that have made their name, like the wrinkly-rinded La Luna. And they’re always on the lookout for new styles. It’s this process of learning – not just about cheese but about their goats and the land the herd grazes on – that keeps things vital for them.
“We wanted to make a semi-hard cheese because it’s a different style of cheesemaking and it expands our own skill base,” says Carla. “We’re interested in the land, in planting trees, in the challenges of climate change. We’re not looking at spreadsheets about our finances endlessly – what drives us is that we’re continuously interested in learning and that’s what makes us love the farm and love what we do and where we live.”
Holy Goat Cheese
112 Sutton Grange-Redesdale Road,