Bright green wasabi-flavoured goats cheese, juicy organic olives, oh-so creamy cheeses made from the milk of grass-fed cows – clear your diaries everyone, the SA Cheese Festival is coming!
An entire (long) weekend of hunting down the best cheeses South Africa has to offer, and washing them down with some of the best wines in the world (all of it in the great outdoors of the lovely Bien Donne Estate) – definitely my favourite way to spend an autumn day (or two).
With so many cheeses and other goodies to choose from, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start… So I’ve managed to get my paws on a list of stallholders, and am working my way through them in advance, focusing as usual on the small producers, artisans, local producers and what’s natural and organic.
Here, then, is what’s natural and organic at this year’s festival:
Cheeses and dairy products
Set at the summit of the pass, lies the family-run farm Voog se Kraal: 35 hectares of ploughed grazing amidst 800 hectares of mountains, fynbos, ravines, gurgling streams, waterfalls and rock pools – the home of Cloud Cottage Cheese.
Organic biodynamic methods have been used to enrich the pastures on which the five Jersey cows and sixty-strong herd of white Saanen goats graze, in their striving to bring “real farming” back into practice – in a modern way.
This is a family farm where culture, agri-culture, and a hands-on, personal approach intermingle, resulting not only in wholesome and delicious cheeses, but also in an atmosphere which has led many passers-by to comment on the therapeutic quality of this piece of land.
Dragon Fly Farm (Napier, Western Cape)
Alpine Organic Goats Cheese is a peasant style goat’s cheese made fresh, every day, from 100% goat’s milk. The milk comes straight from milking the goats into the cheese vat.
The cheese is available in plain, oak smoked, herb and olive oil, persian pepper, tomato/ chilli, touareg chilli, basil, oregano, garlic and their new wasabi (try this!).
Foxenburg Estate (Wellington, Western Cape)
Foxenburg has it all: goats milk and cheese, oyster mushrooms and certified organic olive oil.
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.
Their olives are also top-notch, handpicked with care and pressed the same day to ensure an extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality. Their certified organic extra virgin olive oil is the natural unprocessed oil extracted from the first pressing of their olives.
Indezi River Cheeses (Natal Midlands, KZN)
Indezi River Cheese is a family-run operation situated in the heart of the Natal Midlands. They make quality cows’ milk cheese and an assorted range of specialty goats’ milk cheese, using only the milk from their own herds. Their animals are not injected with artificial milk producing hormones, and have been certified Free Range Dairy.
Additionally, their cheeses are made in the traditional, farmhouse way, without the use of any artificial colorants, flavourings or preservatives (they don’t use animal rennet) and all spices are natural.
Kimilili Farm (Tulbagh, Western Cape)
Kimilili is a picturesque farm located overlooking the spectacular mountains of Tulbagh. Kimilili makes exceptional hand crafted farmhouse cheeses in the French and Swiss cheesemaking tradition. As a “Fermier” cheese maker they rear their own cows and exclusively process their own milk, ensuring that only the very best raw materials are used in their cheeses.
Kimilili Farm uses natural farming practices and their animals are exclusively raised on pasture and only get hay and minerals as supplements. They do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or any commercial dairy feed on the farm.
(And it shows in the taste of their cheeses)
Myst Hill Dairy (George, Western Cape)
Myst Hill uses the milk from their grass-fed cows to make their natural farm butter, feta, gouda and yoghurt. Delicious!
Nuwehoogte Bokmelk (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.
Ovis Angelica (Free State)
This was my absolute favourite from last year’s festival. OVIS ANGELICA sheep cheeses are all handcrafted, made according to organic principles even though not certified organic yet (though organic certification is the plan). The cheeses are 100 % natural and contains no preservatives, colourants, chemicals or stabilisers.
And they taste incredible, especially the unusual Jangroentjie, which I hope will be for sale this year again!
Other natural and organic goodies
Chrisna’s Olives (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
A familiar sight at many markets and festivals is Chrisna’s Olives – bucketloads of the juiciest, most delicious organically grown olives. Always a favourite in my book.
The only place I buy nuts these days… Once you’ve tasted nuts this fresh, you just can’t go back to stale, old store-bought packets ever again. By Nature sells local, organic nuts, dried fruit, seeds and organic honey.
Feast de Renaissance (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
I don’t think I’ve tasted these, but I see them often, and have admired their presentation. “Nestled in the cradle of the majestic Valley located between Elgin and Franschhoek, is the home of feast-de-renaissance… this entrepreneurial gastronomic initiative uses perfectly-ripened fruit and abundant amounts of authentic, preservative-free, fresh ingredients to conserve fruits, often infused with wine, resulting in the creation of an exclusive hand-crafted product range of fruit-infused accompaniments.”
TURKISH DELIGHT is made from starch and sugar under a very special process, flavoured according to taste with the most popular ones containing different nuts. Original Turkish Delight does not contain gelatin and other animal products.
Zest Gourmet Foods
Zest makes a delicious range of preserves and condiments that go exceptionally well with cheese. Their focus is on creating interesting flavours and aromas, firstly to complement cheese, but which have multiple applications for those wishing to be creative. No additives, no chemicals, no colourants, no stabilizers and no preservatives. The colours are natural and the flavours clean to the palate.
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.