Just off SH1 just before Waikouaiti is the Evansdale Cheese factory. Cheese making is a fascinating process and Colleen Dennison – owner of Evansdale Cheese - is one of the longest serving cheese makers in the country.
Back in the day, before refrigerated means of transportation, there used to be cheese factories every 20 miles. However these days the costs of getting registered and the ongoing audit process is prohibitive for all but the most persistent.
Colleen moved the business into the current premises in the late 1990s. Not only does it house the small factory but also a shop and an area for tours to taste and learn about cheese. The premises were the kitchen for Cherry Farm and are well suited to cheese making as the air is filtered and there are multiple chillers and smoking and curing spaces.
Fonterra drop off 5,000 litres of raw milk every three or four days to the factory, where it is first pasteurised and then made into cheese. Most likely the milk is sourced within a close geographical range to the factory but sometimes it does come from the Maniatoto.
As Colleen says, taste is a personal thing but people do want to see that the cheese they buy looks the same and has the same texture as previous cheeses they have had of the same type.
Colleen believes in social responsibility as all small businesses exist within communities. In fact, Evansdale got off the ground in the first place because community members got in behind it. There are four staff members at the factory and three-four in the stall on market day.
Evansdale Cheese is very much a boutique product with all cheeses hand packed and lovingly taken through the curing process in their “birthing” bags, regularly fluffed up and turned to ensure the outside mould matures evenly.
Pretty much all Evansdale cheese is retailed rather than wholesaled. They have developed corporate clients to whom they provide Christmas gifts, and they sell to social clubs etc as well. Evansdale Cheese is sold around the country at farmer’s markets and at some supermarkets.
There isn’t a lot of waste when it comes to cheese. Older cheeses can be sold as French style cheeses which are smellier, stronger in taste and tend to ooze.
Whey is a by-product of making cheese. Much of the whey from Evansdale goes to the cows next door who lap it up. Muscle building energy drinks also use whey as a protein source.
Thursday is the beginning of getting the cheese ready for market. They are cut and packaged and transported to Dunedin on Friday in a refrigerated truck. 10 degrees celsius is an optimal temperature for keeping cheese and Dunedin’s climate makes this a relatively simple task to maintain. The staff at Evansdale offer samples for customers which is an effective selling technique as once one has sampled one almost always buys!