Kikorangi has to be one of my all-time favourite cheeses. It is a New Zealand classic, and consistently wins awards at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards. It was Champion of Champions in 2011, and over the years has also won numerous gold medals, Champion Export Cheese, and Favourite Cheese Award (by public vote).
|Image from www.kapiticollection.co.nz|
Kapiti Cheeses was originally set up in 1984 by Ross McCallum and Neville McNaughton on the Kapiti Coast, when artisan cheese in New Zealand was in its infancy. Ross and Neville were pioneers in introducing quality cheeses to New Zealanders, and Kikorangi became a firm favourite of consumers. Over time the company grew significantly, and was eventually sold and after a couple of ownership changes ended up being purchased by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra.
Today Kapiti is really just a brand, and the manufacture of Kikorangi has been transferred from the Kapiti coast to the Fonterra Brands specialty cheese factory in Eltham, Taranaki. Some would argue that being made by a large multinational dairy company means it is no longer an ‘artisan’ cheese. However, at the Eltham factory a wide variety of cheeses are made by traditional methods, and only a relatively small volume of each is made. In fact Kikorangi is made in open vats rather than large computer controlled vats seen in larger factories, the curd is cut by the cheese makers, and apart from a little automated help with pumping the curd and filling the hoops, everything else including salting is done by hand. And I think this shows in the final product. Kikorangi is consistently good: even an example not at its best is a good cheese (whereas I have come across some cheeses in supermarkets that made me wonder how they got past quality control). At its best, I think it can match a good Stilton and can have more depth than popular European favourites such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort.
At 41% fat (and over 60% FDM), Kikorangi is a very creamy blue cheese. It has a pale golden colour in the paste (helped by the beta-carotene in New Zealand milkfat that comes from our grass) and fine dark blue veins. Many New Zealand blue cheeses have their rinds cleaned before sale – but not Kikorangi, and this adds to both the appearance and the overall flavour. The dark brown to light grey mouldy rind is quite thin, and the flavour is not overpowering – it adds a slight earthy flavour with a hint of mushrooms. The first thing I notice when I put a piece of Kikorangi in my mouth is the firm but creamy texture, almost like butter, that begins to melt away after a few seconds. Then a hit of salt that is immediately balanced by creaminess, earthiness and the blue veins, and a sweet acidic tang to tie it all together.
We just love this cheese, and if we are not careful we can go through a lot of it in one session.
|This is the example I tasted when writing this evaluation. It is just a cheap one from "staff sales" to a Fonterra staff member but even so still tastes fantastic.|
|The snack I earned whilst writing this blog post.|