In the late 1800s, the south coast town of Bodalla was at the forefront of Australia’s dairy industry, but when Sandra McCuaig’s family moved there in 1989, all the factories had closed and milk from local farms was sent to be processed at inland facilities.
In 2008 Sandra decided it was time to revive the local dairy industry and put Bodalla back on the map.
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“I just thought it was sad that we weren’t recognized for the hard work and value of premium milk,” Sandra said. Regional Media.
The McCuaig family started bottling their milk locally and also opened the Bodalla Dairy Shed milk bar, followed by a cheese factory in 2011. Sandra described the trip as a “wonderful learning curve” as they worked at make everything from nothing.
They also made the decision to retain as much flavor and nutrition in the milk as possible by using a small-scale pasteurizer. This still meets strict food regulations for pasteurized milk, but she said the slow, slow process allows more “good” bacteria to remain in the final product.
“The milk that is processed by the ‘big boys’ is handled rather roughly. It’s put under high pressure to homogenize it – extraordinary pressure – so that all the fat globules are broken into tiny little pieces so they never come together again and never come back up,” explained Sandra.
“It’s become a cosmetic thing more than anything else. Homogenization doesn’t improve flavor or health or anything.
Bottles of Bodalla Dairy Living Milk have a characteristic cream clot at the top and the amount of cream will also change slightly over the year as natural seasonal variations can play out.
Living milk is the basis of all Bodalla Dairy products, which are made on site from scratch using natural flavors. They have won several awards for their designs at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
For many south coast visitors, no party is complete without a scoop (or two!) of Bodalla Dairy ice cream.
Local ingredients are featured in flavors like Let’s Go Diving – a fun combination of Narooma kelp and green tea – and coffee and Coastal Wattleseed, which was my favourite. There are classic flavors like milk chocolate, strawberry, and salted caramel for less adventurous eaters, but I would definitely recommend trying the unique flavors.
Wander around to visit the resident poddy calves while you enjoy your ice cream; bonus points if you time your visit to coincide with the twice-daily feeding. You can also watch the cheese-making process through the windows of the nearby factory.
Bodalla Dairy has also become famous for using indigenous Australian ingredients in its Bush Tucker Cheddar Cheese line. Sandra said she drew from her childhood in the country where plants like saline and quandong were commonly used.
Flavors like the Gum Leaf Smoked Cheddar aim to evoke childhood memories around a campfire. It takes eight hours to impart the sweet smoky flavor and the process uses gum leaves from the farm.
Other native ingredients like saline and Tasmanian pepperberry come from Outback Pride, a company that works with indigenous communities to grow and harvest native plants in an ethical and sustainable way.
The past two years have been particularly difficult for businesses on the south coast. The Black Summer fires destroyed part of the Bodalla dairy farm, but Sandra said they were very lucky the fire didn’t reach the historic buildings on the main street.
“It would have been devastating; [Bodalla is] mostly wooden buildings, except for the granite church. So it was quite flammable! But the fire went all the way around, with lots of help from the fire department to keep it out of town.
The pandemic then prevented many Canberrans from visiting the coast, which was another loss for small businesses in the city.
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“It was very difficult… we kept everyone working, which was a bit difficult because we had no traffic. [It was so quiet that] once there was a snake that curled up to sleep on the Princes Highway!
Sandra thinks there is a real sense of optimism in the area and locals are eager to welcome Canberrans back to the coast.
“We’ve all paid a bit of a price, but we’re looking forward to a great summer where things will be a bit more normal.”
Sydneysiders can now also enjoy Bodalla Dairy ice cream delivered fresh from the coast at the new Bodalla Dairy ice cream parlor in Woollahra, which was opened in 2021 by Sandra’s daughter, Jane Stuart.
Sandra also hinted at plans for a Canberra project in the next few years, but we’ll have to wait and see!
The Bodalla Dairy Shed is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer at 52 Princes Highway, Bodalla. Check their website for special events.
Woollahra Glacier is open 2pm to 7pm Monday to Friday and 12pm to 7pm weekends, at 148 Queen St, Sydney.
Original article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.