The 2009 SA Cheese Festival was on this weekend (24-27 April) and I went along on the first day (a Friday), to sample my way through the several hundred cheeses on offer…
It was a lovely day, despite all weather forecasts, with mostly sunny skies, and warm temperatures.
And, best of all, being a week-day, it’s the quietest day of the festival, which means there’s no need to elbow people out of the way to get to the cheese, and that one can quiz the still-relaxed cheesemakers at length about their produce.
As always, I like to focus on the small producers and artisans, especially those who employ natural and sustainable practices on their farms, use only natural ingredients, and make their cheeses by hand.
These, then, were the highlights of the day:
|Ovis Angelica “Divine Sheep’s Cheese”
Patria Farm, Smithfield (Free State).
I tried the ‘JanGroentjie‘, a soft sheep’s milk cheese with organic dried lavender buds. SPLENDIFEROUS!
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!.
Visit www.sasheepdairy.co.za for more info and to find a local distributor.
|Wilde & Roare Organics
Odenshoek Farm, Montagu (Western Cape)
My favourite: the ‘Goatsmilk Cheese Chocolate, Grappa & Nut’
The sheer novelty of eating goatsmilk smothered in organic dark chocolate blew me away… Wow!
Not only does their cheese taste divine, Wilde & Roare is dedicated to using natural and sustainable farming methods, raising their goats in a humane and compassionate manner, and producing handcrafted products made from honey, herbs and goatsmilk.
They are in the process of becoming fully organically certified.
|La Petite France
Edgewater, 36 Sutton Rd, Hilton (KZN).
They make a handmade French-style camembert – probably one of the best camemberts I have ever tasted!
La Petite France is so-called because the culture and rennet for these delicious camemberts is imported from France – only the milk is locally sourced. Why that would make it better, I’m not too sure, but it certainly is delicious.
The cheese is made in Hilton, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and unlike many camemberts, is enclosed in a permeable cover which ensures that methane (produced when the cheese ferments) doesn’t get trapped inside.
Contact details: Tel. 033 343 3487; Email email@example.com.
|Nuwehoogte Goat Dairy
Robertson (Western Cape)
Try 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).
This small family-run goat dairy near Robertson makes everything by hand and no preservatives or colourants are used in their cheeses.
Their enthusiasm is contagious! I’d love to go and visit their farm one of these days.
Contact details: Tel. 023 626 4165 / 076 875 3576; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Broughton Farm, Bedford (Eastern Cape)
Delicious, delicately flavoured organic cows milk cheeses.
The cheeses are hand-crafted and are produced from the milk of pasture-fed cows. The cows are not fed any animal by-products, growth stimulants or hormones, and no artificial additives, colouring or preservatives are added to the cheese.
To save energy, and prevent bacterial contamination, the cheesemaking process is started immediately after milking, on the farm.
Contact details: Tel. 042 247 2321 / 072 396 2265; Email email@example.com
George, Garden Route (Western Cape)
A joint venture: delicious, goats milk cheese from Caprino Farm and cows milk cheeses from Myst Hill.
The Caprino Farm range includes chevre logs (Black pepper, plain, mixed herb, mustard & seed), semi-hard gouda (yum!), crumbly feta and a tangy cheddar.
Myst Hill uses the milk from their grass-fed cows to make their natural farm butter, feta, gouda and yoghurt. Delicious!
Contact details: Tel. Tony Hill – 082 498 5721
|Kambro (Jamma Farm)
Jamma Farm, Dordrecht (Eastern Cape)
Their specialty is what they call ‘Kambro Pinomage’ – a combination of cows’ milk, cultures and ‘pintoagriculture’.
These are cheeses for winelovers, steeped, as they are, in tasty Pinotage.
The milder (ie less mature) cheeses were more to my tastebuds’ liking, but they have a feisty version for those with a craving for stronger flavours.
For information on how to find this lovely cheese, contact cheesemaker Andre Myburg on 082 901 0245 / 045 941 1017 (he’s the one with the hilarious hat!)
|Alpine Goat’s Cheese
Dragon Fly Farm, Napier (Western Cape)
Try all their goats’ milk cheeses! They’re available in plain, chili, basil, oregano, herb & olive oil, oak smoked, vanilla, olive and tomato/chilli.
These are artisan cheesemakers with a passion for sustainability and things organic. Ask them about their farm and you’ll see the passion!
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.
And, of course, there were many more highlights of the day…
More exceptional cheeses:
- The Dalewood Fromage Wineland Brie Exotic range: Wild Mushroom; Crushed Olives; Cape Chilli; Green Fig (all natural ingredients, using traditional hand-crafted methods). 021 875 5725. www.dalewood.co.za
- Foxenburg Estate. Goat milk cheeses, certified organic extra virgin olive oil, table olives, and oyster mushrooms. www.foxenburg.co.za
- La Masseria. A delicious, creamy mascarpone with nuts and grape must. www.lamasseria.co.za
- Portobello. Their new camembert-like cheese, the Franschhoek Angelot was launched at the festival. It is smooth and creamy, and has a lovely strong taste. Look out for the bright red packaging.
- Kimilili. Fabulous farmhouse cheeses from Tulbagh, crafted in the French and Swiss cheesemaking tradition, using natural farming practices. I highlighted them last year, and they’re still going strong! www.kimililifarm.co.za
And some non-cheese highlights:
- Bella Vita Farm (Wilderness). Growers of exotic mushrooms, Bella Vita creates tasty gourmet mushroom salsas, pestos, chutneys, and tapenades. They also make a tasty dairy-free basil pesto. www.bella-vita.co.za
- By Nature. Natural and organic products. Nuts, honeys, dried fruit. You’ll find them at selected food markets in Cape Town. www.bynature.co.za
- Chrisna’s Olives. Olives of gargantuan proportions. You’ll find them at the Stellenbosch Fresh Goods Market and the Neighbour Goods Market.
- Laharna Farm & Blue Sky Organics. Organic olive farms side by side in the Klein Karoo (the owners are siblings). Delicious organic olives and olive-products. www.urbansprout.co.za/laharna_farm | www.blueskyorganics.co.za
- Mannamakers. Definitely one of the most eye-catching stalls of the festival. Fresh baked breads of all kinds, colourful cupcakes, sandwiches, french loaves, florentines and more!