Cheese is one of the staples in Filipino food preparation. A by-product of milk, did you know that its raw materials mostly come from New Zealand?
Until the 1920s, New Zealand—a country known for its green pastures populated with Grade A cattle—was dotted with small cheese factories, because the days before the advent of refrigeration, milk could only travel a short distance before it became spoiled.
In this day of modern technology, however, a new generation of cheese-makers has revived the industry making cheese out of excellent “down under” milk, and a trip around the country a heavenly experience for cheese lovers.
New Zealand’s revamped artisan cheese industry can be found in these locations:
Auckland and Northland. In the far north, there’s the Mahoe Cheese near Kerikeri, which has won multiple prizes including the Champion of Champions at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards. This family farm has 60 Fresian cows, whose milk is turned into Dutch-style cheese like the “Very Old Gouda” which is beautifully tart and complex.
Another award-winning artisan cheesemaker, Grinning Gecko, also sources top quality certified organic milk from a local farm and makes some of New Zealand’s finest soft cheeses. From their little factory situated in the heart of Whangarei, Northland, handmade cheese can be viewed three or four days of the week.
Waikato. Where the grass is greener than just about anywhere else in New Zealand – is home to many of the country’s best-established cheese-makers, including Mercer Cheese, where 12-kilogram rounds of edam, maasdam and gouda can be gorgeously sliced upon order.
Meanwhile, Over the Moon Dairy is a relative newcomer, starting in 2008 in the little country town of Putaruru, producing cheese from sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk, marked by intense flavors and technical precision. Many of the recipes were created by co-owner Neil Willman, who is a master of cheese and runs the New Zealand Cheese School. The Galactic Gold – a washed-rind – has the reputation of “the cheese to end all cheeses.”
Lower North Island. Beside the Whanganui River, Lonely Goat Cheese makes artisan cheese using traditional hands-on techniques and recipes. Its owners have earned two medals for their Fiery Feta and Pepato style cheeses and have made their delicious array available in Wanganui River Traders Market.
A little further south, artisan cheesemakers Cartwheel Creamery articulates cheeses reflecting the natural goodness of the Pohangina Valley, near Palmerston North. A taste of the spicy Blue Rhapsody at Feilding Farmers’ Market or from the creamery itself will make for an unforgettable experience.
Kaikoura and Canterbury. Kaikoura Cheese owners started with three goats on land outside of Kaikoura a couple of years ago. Now they have 60 goats and their little factory and shopin town produces the sublime Tenara ash-coated soft goat’s cheese, which is at once nutty and floral, with a great texture.
There’s also in Christchurch the Canterbury Cheesemongers, a shop with an incredible range of New Zealand cheese.
The Deep South. A few hours’ drive south at Oamaru is also the factory at Whitestone Cheese, where one can settle in for a sampling in its airy tasting room. They make an enormous range of cheese, with milk sourced from a handful of farmers around North Otago. The Lindis Pass Camembert – gooey and stinky – has been described as New Zealand’s greatest cheese.