The prize-winning cheesemakers of Bulimba State School in Brisbane, QLD took some time out of their busy days to help us celebrate World Milk Day by answering a few questions about their unique kitchen garden program activities.
You have a wide-ranging kitchen garden program at Bulimba that includes chickens and nature-based experiences. Can you give us a quick rundown of your program and how you incorporate milk and especially cheese into your classes?
Here at Bulimba State School we have been making a variety of cheeses and incorporating them into our meals for 10 years now.
Whilst the program starts with the Grade 3s we tend to only make cheeses with Grades 5 and 6. We also make our own yoghurt and labneh.
What sorts of cheeses do you produce?
Ricotta, haloumi, paneer, labneh, camembert and blue brie.
Where do you get your milk?
We source our milk from two local dairies.
Are there extra safety and hygiene measures you have to take into consideration?
Hygiene is critical when making cheeses. When we make our in-house soft cheeses we use vinegar as a water-bath. But when we make camembert we adhere to the stringent hygiene rules the EKKA (Royal Queensland Show) provides.
We also have children who participate in the program that are dairy intolerant so we devise alternatives to ensure they are included.
Do you incorporate ingredients from the school’s garden into your cheese-making?
Yes, we use our limes and lemons when making ricotta but usually it is the other way around; we add the cheese into our cooking. For example, paneer goes into our curries, and ricotta is added into cakes, ravioli, gnudi and gnocchi, and one of our favourites: strawberry and ricotta pancakes.
The fresh-made labneh might have garden cherry tomatoes and herbs stirred through, along with fresh-picked veggie sticks for dipping.
Our school-made yoghurt is often used in the kitchen too, like today, we are adding a couple of tablespoons in our naan bread recipe. And, the iconic yoghurt raita – with fresh harvested cucumber and mint. Can you guess our menu today is Indian?!
Is it true that you offer cheese-making classes for the school community?
Yes. Twice a year we invite parents, volunteers and teachers to help the Special Events Team make the camembert cheese. In the past we have invited the hospitality students from the local high school to be involved. It is a great day, but then we have to wait six weeks before we get to taste and take some home!
In 2019 you won first prize at the EKKA for Student-Made Cheese Mould Ripened Cheese, White section – how did that feel?
We were so excited to win, especially being a primary school amongst mostly high school entrants. Very proud of our efforts and how cool to be able to call ourselves ‘Award Winning Cheesemakers’. Now we have the honour of defending the title in July. No pressure!
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