Andrea Power makes a variety of local flavoured cheeses. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
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When Andrea Power was a teen, she did not spend her summer vacations picnicking on the beach, as her peers did. Instead of relaxing under the shade of a beach umbrella drinking ice-cold coconut water, Andrea was milking cows with her father Asquith Power.
EASY magazine caught up with the owner of Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses, who discussed the technical process of making cheese.
Andrea explained that the first step in cheese making was developing curds. Afterwards the curds are separated from the whey, she said cheese is made from curds.
“If you left milk out on the counter it starts to sour and you may notice it starts to curdle. That’s the beginning of curds. So when we make cheese we do so in a controlled environment to make it more secure.”
Andrea explained that the curd’s texture is dependent on the type of cheese being made. She added that milk had to meet certain standards and criteria before it could be used to make cheese, noting that only the cleanest of milk could be used, otherwise you wouldn’t get curds.
Andrea said that making cheese was an intricate process. She explained that the more whey is released the less moisture the cheese has. She said softer cheeses like goat cheese or cream cheese needed a high moisture content to develop the perfect texture.
The 41-year-old said while the whey is disposed of during the manufacturing process, it was rich in proteins and could easily be used as a nutrient source for plants and livestock.
Andrea produces a variety of cheeses. Her cow’s milk products include scotch bonnet jack and drunken cheddar cheese and her goat’s milk products are rosemary goat cheddar, herbed and fresh goat cheese. She said she would produce two new flavours – guava and sorrel goat’s cheese for Christmas.
“Our milk is sourced from farmers across the island who provide very high-quality milk to exacting standards and our product is as Bajan as it gets. When you buy our cheese you are making a decision to support an entire value chain, from farm to table, and helping to create sustainable employment – you are also importantly saving foreign exchange. Our team comprises all young people and it is their creativity, commitment and energy that forms the basis of our success thus far.
For the past four years, Andrea has been plying her trade in a small processing facility at the side of her Pasture Road, St Michael home, with the help of three staff members. Although she said she has been making strides in the agricultural and tourism sectors, she said her biggest challenge is always getting the word out about her cheese and getting more Bajan chefs to use it.
“We are making headway, but we have a long way to go. The challenge is not one for Hatchman’s Cheeses alone, but for all food products derived from local ingredients. As Barbadians we must be more confident about our local ingredients, we must own them, and we must demand that they be used. While there are some Bajan chefs that are trying new things with local products, we must push for more innovation and creativity.
With the sponsorship of Cobbler’s Cove Hotel, Andrea was able to attend the 2016 World Cheese Awards as a judge. She said her experience was amazing and inspired her to compete.
“I judged over 1 000 entrants and my experience was eye-opening. Apart from being able to feast on really good cheese, I met other cheese producers who had similar humble stories, for whom cheese making wasn’t a sophisticated endeavour just a labour of love. I felt like I was in a community of people who just wanted to produce amazing cheese, exchange tips and ideas and learn new things about the process.
“When I tasted some of the chesses, I realised our cheeses could compete with the best of the best. So next year here we come.”
Andrea said she was not sure which one of her cheeses she would enter, but suggested it may be an entirely new variety that would be unique to Barbados. (SB)