$28 for 200g and a 2 hour round trip. Seems a lot to pay for a cheese. But the chance to finally taste the first NZ-made raw milk cheese had me heading over the hill to C’est Fromage in Featherston in search of Aroha Organic Goat Cheese.
What’s so special about this little cheese from Te Aroha? Aside from multiple awards, I reckon it’s the beginning of an awesome future for Kiwi raw milk cheese-making.
New Zealand law changed in 2011 allowing the sale and manufacture of raw milk cheese. Yet whilst European unpasteurised milk cheeses have poured in, there is still only one Kiwi-made raw milk cheese certified for sale. And with a small herd of goats Jeanne van Kuyk and her husband John are definitely an artisan-size operation. So if you see it, snap it up ‘cos it’s rare down Wellington-way.
Why the slowness? Cheesemaker Paul Broughton from C’est Cheese, who’s experimenting with raw milk Brie-style cheese, explained to me that it’s pretty expensive to get certified. Samples from each batch of cheese need to be sent away for testing.
It’s the fear of listeria, salmonella and e colli you see, as the milk is not pasteurised. But pasteurisation, increasingly used since the 40’s, also strips the milk of the beneficial organisms as well as potentially harmful ones.
And somewhere along the way the nuances of flavour seem to flatten and fade. It’s not that pasteurised cheese is bad, it’s just that raw milk cheeses tends to have a wider range of more subtle, complex flavours.
Flavours that linger and lilt on the tongue, flavours that reflect the place the milk was from, the plants and the herbs the animal ate, the quality of the earth and the sun and the water that went into the plants. This is, I think, is what the French mean by terroir, the tastes of the place that comes through into the cheese via the milk.
So though Paul was selling the Aroha goats cheese he can’t sell his Brie yet, although he did sneak me a wee taste and already you can see where he’s heading – richer, deeper flavours which stay longer in the mouth.
Check out C’est Cheese’s Facebook page, and keep an eye on their tastings, it’s well worth the drive over the hill to sample these rare Kiwi-made raw milk cheeses.