A little while back I took a look at what’s natural and organic at the upcoming SA Cheese Festival (coming up this weekend, yay!).  And there was rather a lot to choose from.

But natural and organic isn’t the be-all and end-all.  Just because a cheese is made in a natural way using organic ingredients, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great product.  It takes the skill of an artisan to bring out the best in a cheese, and it’s those guys that I’m spotlighting today.

I hope I haven’t missed any, and there may be some duplication from the natural and organic feature (tends to go hand-in-hand with artisan food), but these are the ones on the exhibitors’ list that got my attention…

Alpine Goat’s Cheese

Dragon Fly Farm, Napier (Western Cape)
www.goats-cheese.co.za

These are artisan cheesemakers with a passion for sustainability and things organic.  Dragon Fly Farm practices organic principles in farming and cheese making. All cheese is handcrafted daily using vegetarian rennet, 100% goats milk and no artificial colourants, stabilisers or additives are used.

They have an awesome variety of flavours: chili, basil, oregano, herb & olive oil, oak smoked, vanilla, olive, tomato/chilli and tastebud-titillating wasabi (my favourite).

Foxenburg Estate (Wellington, Western Cape)
www.foxenburg.co.za

Foxenburg Estate is situated on the spectacular northern slopes of the Groenberg in the Wellington area of the Western Cape. Here, a herd of Swiss Saanen goats is expressly maintained on the certified organic farm pastures for the production of premium quality goats milk cheeses.

The estate’s many types of cheeses are all produced by hand, honouring traditional northern Hemisphere farmhouse cheese-making methods, and are made from 100% whole goat milk, free of preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and artificial colourants.

Kimilili Cheese

Tulbagh (Western Cape) www.kimililifarm.co.za

Working side-by-side on Kimilili Farm, Robert Tobien (originally from Frankfurt), Mahlomola Mosa and Bongikhaya Nondzaba, make, natural, hand crafted farmhouse cheeses in the French and Swiss cheese making tradition using time-honoured recipes dating as far back as 800 AD.

Apart from a string of accolades for their cheese, cheesemakers Mahlomola (who started working on the farm as a farm hand and milker) and Bongikhaya were both awarded bursaries – in 2007 and 2009 respectively – to hone their cheesemaking skills in Burgundy, France.

I’ve been to Kimilili, and watched the cheesemakers in action.  It truly is a wonderful place, and the cheese is exceptional.

La Petite France

Edgewater, 36 Sutton Rd, Hilton (KZN).

La Petite France is so-called because the culture and rennet for these delicious cheeses is imported from France – only the milk is locally sourced (apparently because our milk tastes better).

These guys make a handmade French-style camembert that will get your tastebuds popping.  SO good.   I’m looking forward to trying their Brie this time around.

Nuwehoogte Goat Dairy

Robertson (Western Cape)

This small family-run goat dairy near Robertson makes everything by hand and no preservatives or colourants are used in their cheeses.  They love what they do, too – you can see it when they talk!

Last year, the highlights were the ‘Vinicio‘ (semi-soft cheese matured in petit verdot wine) and ‘Yael‘ (semi-hard cheese which spends two months in red wine, grape pips and skins) cheeses, and I’m excited to see what they’ve developed since then.

Ovis Angelica “Divine Sheep’s Cheese”

Patria Farm, Smithfield (Free State).   www.sasheepdairy.co.za

Ovis Angelica produces a range of artisan cheeses, made by hand from sheeps’ milk. The ewes are managed according to organic principles, range freely in pastures and paddocks and the use of antibiotics, chemical drenches and vaccines are limited to the absolute minimum.
Farmer Elmarie van Aswegen beams with pride when talking about her farm – and so she should!.

My favourite last year was the ‘JanGroentjie‘, a soft sheep’s milk cheese with organic dried lavender buds.

Prikkelpot

Durbanville (Western Cape)

Prikkelpot is a small, family run business.  It’s a hands-on job, literally, as all the Yoghurt Cheese is handrolled and lovingly placed in a glass jar.  It is based in Durbanville and, even though there is no “shop”, visitors are welcome to pop in.

I always stop at the Prikkelpot stand – once you’ve tasted their yoghurt cheese (especially the ones loaded with garlic, mmmmm…), you’ll be back, wanting more.

Contact:  Ms Selma Marais prikkelpot[at]iburst.co.za.  021 – 976 1936

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for this festival – bring it on!

EVENT DETAILS:
The SA Cheese Festival runs from 24-27 April 2010.

Times: Saturday to Monday 10:00 to 18:00, Tuesday 10:00 to 17:00

Tickets: R110 pp for Saturday and Sunday and R90 pp for Monday and Tuesday. This entitles you to a shopping bag, festival programme, tastings and inspirational demonstrations by some of South Africa’s top food icons.

  • Remember, NO TICKET SALES at the gates!
  • A limited number of tickets are on sale at Computicket and in Checkers stores.
  • Senior citizens discount: R70 pp for the duration of the festival.
  • FREE entry for children 12 years and under.
  • Wine tasting glasses @ R10 each on sale at the gates.

Website: www.cheesefestival.co.za

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