It turns out that their award winning cheeses are produced from a herd of only 25 goats. Run by a husband, wife and daughter team (Jan and John Walter, and Emily Ward), they won their first cheese award back in 2001, when they were at their old Albany property, mainly selling goat's milk to people who had trouble digesting cow's milk. Less than a fortnight ago, their achievements were recognised again, with one gold, six silver and four bronze awards at the Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2012.
|Awards and range of goat's cheeses on display.|
We were then taken to meet the new season's kids, cute little things that greeted us enthusiastically. Each of them had a name, and their full names are said with their family names first, like in Chinese, as in "Crescent Jude" or "Crescent Nesta". Apparently the floppy eared goats produce creamier milk, but in smaller quantities, and the farm has a mix of breeds.
After quickly walking past the stinging nettle bush by a wall (the leaves of which are used in their Farmhouse Sting cheese), we were taken to the barn and milking shed. The adult goats were much bigger, but equally friendly, and a bunch of them walked up for cuddles. We probably saw more of them because it was raining lightly outside, and it was really interesting being introduced to the goats, because they had such different personalities from each other.
|Goats hiding out from the rain.|
|John demonstrates the suction tubes on the milking machine.|
Animal visit over, we sanitised our hands, removed our shoes, and entered the cheesemaking area. Here, Jan the cheesemaker took over the narrative and explained the process behind their various cheeses. We saw the vats of milk being gently pasteurised on the side (apparently it is too hard for a small scale producer to make unpasteurised cheese, as regulations mean you would need to send samples off to the lab every day), admired the homemade cheese moulds, and walked into the temperature- and humidity-controlled cellar where we both viewed and smelled the cheeses being aged. It was amazing how much milk went into making a round of cheese.
|More mature cheeses at the back.|
|Smaller cheeses in the cellar.|
Finally, the cheese tasting! We sampled eleven types of cheese, and they all had unique flavours, despite being made from the same basic ingredients. Some were soft, others more mature; the blue had Roquefort culture introduced, another was washed daily in a salt solution before having an alcohol applied in the final days. Some cheeses contained additions, such as fenugreek or stinging nettle. Most of them didn't have any salt added. It was a varied, insightful and delicious ending to the tour.
|Cheese tasting platter.|
Crescent Dairy Goats
177A Taupaki Road, Kumeu
(09) 412 2074
Tuesdays to Sundays 10am - 5pm (tours begin at 11am)
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