JACK HOLMAN - CHEESE MAKER
Practically neighbours of ours, the Yarra Valley Dairy at the start of St. Huberts road has been making cow and goats milk cheese since 1994. The last 12 years have been under the expertise of Head Cheese Maker Jack Holman. A Healesville local whose passion for cheese has him working night and day on produce for both the dairy and his own exciting new brand, Stone And Crow Cheese Company.
Whilst travelling through India many years ago, Jack met some Frenchmen who invited him to visit their hometown in the South of France where they lived and worked as cheesemakers. They taught him the processes and techniques that go into cheese making and by the end of his visit Jack knew that’s what he wanted to devote his life to.
With a standard day starting at 3am and finishing after 4pm, Jack will work on multiple cheeses at a time. From the Dairy classics like Persian Fetta and Yering to limited releases like the soft cheese infused with Strawberry Gum he’s making especially for the 2016 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Timing is everything as he balances curd development, temperatures, stirring, splitting and washing. In hairnets, white coats and boots we watched on in amazement, the atmosphere a buzz, as Jack and his team brought fresh milk into something solid, tangible and delicious. “It’s a balance between science and intuition” Jack explained as he squeezed the curd together in his hand accessing its texture.
Through packing lines and fascinating pasteurisation rooms, we passed giant milk tanks where we said a quick hello to Rob who was delivering fresh goats milk from his free range Saanen goat farm in Mansfield. In their aging room, the processed cheeses sit to mature on beautiful wooden shelves. The carved date that is inscribed on the face of every wheel gives them an age old appearance. We had the pleasure of tasting a year old Bullseye, the variety we had just seen be made. With a cheese trier Jack dug into the wheel pulling out a long stem of delectable, rich and beautifully textural cheese.
In addition to the huge role he plays at the dairy, Jack has his side project Stone And Crow Cheese Company. A platform for him to experiment with some more unusual cheeses. We currently have his ‘Moonshine’, a variation on Cheddar, on the menu at Meletos. Appropriately named as the rest of the Valley sleeps he’s cooking it up behind closed doors.
An active member of the Yarra Valley community, Jack also spoke of the Australian cheese scene, a supportive and collaborative mob.
An upcoming ‘cheese exchange’ project will see Jack working with industry bethren including Bruny Island Cheese in Tassie and Section 28, Udder Delights and Wood Side from Adelaide.
“When you love what you do the late nights and long hours just don’t matter.” That’s Jack Holman.