The flavours of the bush are making a big bang at Bodalla Dairy.
Admit it: ice cream flavours like “Let’s Go Surfing” (also known as fresh mango with toasted coconut pieces) or Coastal Wattleseed, and cheeses with native ingredients like saltbush or Tasmanian pepperberry are hard to resist.
It’s no wonder that life for the owners of Bodalla Dairy, a family-owned ice creamery and cheese factory which infuses many of its products with native ingredients (and some fantastic names), is perennially busy.
When lockdowns permit, visitors flock to the farm Sandra McCuaig and her family bought in 1989. While tourists and locals come for the treats on sale through the onsite dairy shed and milk bar, animal feeding or the Sunday afternoon music sessions, for Sandra the farm is the place where she injects both time and thought into their popular dairy products.
“We do our own pasteurising,” she explains of Bodalla Dairy’s milk, which has twice won gold at the Royal Easter Show (just two of the 44 awards earned by the business).
“Food and health-conscious people know that white milk is white water when you take the cream out. If you get real milk, it’s a whole different experience,” she says.
Bodalla Dairy’s milk is pasteurised at the minimum legal temperatures.
“It’s done very gently, without high-speed equipment,” Sandra explains.
While it’s natural, it’s not fast:
“We can’t do big amounts – it’s done one vat at a time. We can pasteurise about 1000 litres in an hour, whereas the big companies can do 20,000 an hour,” she laughs.
The multi-award winning business also sends pallets of cheeses to supermarkets up and down the coast each week.
The most popular is Bodalla Dairy’s “Gumleaf Smoke” smoked cheese:
“It takes me about seven hours to smoke; I can make 500 kilos in a full day. It’s done with a cold smoke and a very low temperature – not a lot of people smoke their cheese naturally as sitting by the product in white smoke is too time consuming for most people,” Sandra says.
For Sandra, working with native ingredients in this way is worth the time.
“These are special flavours. You also see it in the cheese. If there’s a brown line of liquid smoke that’s a giveaway it’s been chemically smoked: it’s a completely different smell to the soft natural smoke smell,” she says.
A bush girl by birth, Sandra grew up near the New South Wales town of Griffith. When she and her husband moved to Bodalla they both knew of its dairy and cheese-making history.
“The country’s first commercial cheeses came from here in the 1860s. When we arrived in 1989 there were 13 dairies, many of which have since been lost. Dairy farming used to be a family business, run as a team, but cattle farming is easier so a lot of people moved over to that,” she says.
Her own business has remained a family proposition, a fact which fills Sandra with joy.
“Working with family is wonderful; how lucky we are,” she says delightedly.
The latest addition to the family entity opened in April 2021 in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. Run by Sandra’s daughter Jane, the cow-to-cone ice cream store may be operating well north of the family farm in Bodalla, but it’s equally successful.
“It’s already super busy,” says Sandra.
While the early success in Sydney has been tricky for Jane, who has also been home schooling her four children for much 2021 during Sydney’s lockdown, the new store’s popularity has become a welcome addition for the local Woollahra community.
“I think people have enjoyed the ice cream as a reward,” Sandra says.
The recent discovery of Bodalla Dairy’s Sydney outlet by dozens of media outlets also means Bodalla Dairy is unlikely to get much quieter in the future.
Still, for Jane, who loves life in Bodalla on the family farm, there’s great joy back home, seeing visitors tuck into the treats available from the farm’s Bodalla Dairy Shed.
“We’re enjoying it all,” she says.
Sandra’s top five things to do in Eurobodalla
- Take a meandering drive along George Bass Drive stopping a beachside settlements like Mossy Point.
- Explore the small villages like Mogo – don’t miss the Mogo Zoo!
- Visit Bodalla’s historic All Saints’ Anglican Church, then bottle feed calves and enjoy our cheeses or the ice cream and milkshakes at Bodalla Diary Shed.
- Eat oysters from Oyster Farmer’s Daughter in Narooma.
- Take a boat trip to Montague Island.