Friday, March 14, 2014

New Zealand is blessed with farmhouse goats milk cheesemakers

Last week on my long drive home from the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards in Auckland, I visited two farmhouse cheesemakers.  I met them both at the cheese awards gala dinner, where I was lucky enough to sit at a table with not one but two champion cheesemakers.

First I dropped in at Crescent Dairy Goats in Kumeu just north of Auckland, where I tasted through the range of cheeses produced by Jan Walter from her small herd of goats.  Jan's Flat White had won Champion Original Cheese just days earlier.  In fact, she has won medals every year since  first entering in 2000.
The little farm shop and a local customer at Crescent Dairy Goats
And as I drove further south, I dropped into Jean and John van Kuyk who run Aroha Organic Goat Cheese near Te Aroha in the Waikato region.  This year Jean won Champion Cheesemaker for the highest scoring cheese in the competition (100/100 !) for her Raw Milk Rich Plain cheese.  This medium-hard cheese is New Zealand's first approved raw milk cheese, and the care, attention and procedures required to achieve that status shows through in the cheese.  When I dropped in on Jean and John they were entertaining some Dutch friends but rather than turn me away they invited me (and another couple of keen cheesemakers travelling home from the awards) to join them for tea and cake and a lively discussion in the afternoon sun.  When afternoon milking time approached, we walked down the farm to fetch the small herd of goats.  The "girls" were very friendly and made sure they got a good neck rub.

So my conclusion is that New Zealand is blessed with farmhouse cheesemakers who really care for their goats, think about what farming processes they are using, and are passionate cheesemakers.  In addition to the two above, I have previously visited Kaikoura Artisan Cheese (Canterbury) and Lonely Goat (Wanganui) - and these are no different.  I'm sure there must be more out there too.  This is fantastic, but it doesn't make it any easier for someone like myself who is trying to set up a cheese shop - somehow I have to choose between some of these cheeses!
Following the goats to the milking shed at Aroha Organic Goat Cheese

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