The results have just been announced for the 2011 British Cheese Awards with the Supreme Champion being Kilree, made by Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese from Ireland.
The hotly anticipated results of the 18th British Cheese Awards were announced last night at a sparkling event at the City Hall in Cardiff. On the eve of the Great British Cheese Festival and signalling the beginning of British Cheese Week, the great and the good of cheese making assembled to celebrate the Oscars of the dairy world, and the star of the show was a goat’s cheese from Stoneyford, County Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland.
Entries included nearly 700 vegetarian cheeses, 170 raw milk cheeses, 110 organic, 60 blue and over 40 goat and ewe’s milk creations. The judges nosed, nibbled and narrowed the field to a list of winners in 22 categories, representing the nation’s finest possible cheeseboard and declared Kilree, made by Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese the best of the best.
Continuing on the Bavarian and Austrian cheesemaker visits, we stopped by two very different cheesemaking dairies, Kaeskuche Isny and Sennerei Zurwies.
Kaeskuche Isny - Isny im Allgäu
Located in south-eastern Baden-Württemberg, Kaeskuche Isny was founded in 1998 by a group of ecologically-minded dairy farmers with a view to providing a consistent market for their milk as well as the opportunity to showcase its high quality by converting it into cheese.
The farmers formed a co-operative and hired cheesemaker Evelyn Wild to manage and run the dairy. The dairy has proved to be such a success under Evelyn’s management that she has now hired an additional full time cheesemaker, Simon, to focus on production, allowing her to focus on other aspects of the business. Simon was brought up and trained as a cheesemaker in Switzerland.
In many mountainous regions of the world, the summer months bring a tradition of transhumance. This is a centuries-old practice, where people and animals make an annual pilgrimage to the upper slopes of the mountains to take advantage of the bounty of the summer pastures.
Traveling up in late spring and returning in early autumn, they spend several months living and working on their mountain farms, grazing their animals on the myraid of rich summer herbs, grasses and flowers and turning the resulting quality milk into highly prized cheeses. These mountain dairies are frequently situated in breathtakingly beautiful locations, making you feel as if you're on top of the world.
Undeterred by loud thunder claps and torrential rain in the afternoon, day two at the Slow Food Festival in Bra, Italy saw thousands of people milling around the city, buying and tasting cheese, attending workshops and generally having a good time.
Our American cheesemakers were in high spirits and doing some brisk trading with a great deal of enthusiasm and interest from Europeans about the emerging American artisinal cheese scene. Its a great sight and the American crew are doing their country proud... Yay!
Also, very, very Happy Birthday to Cary Bryant of Rogue Creamery and Culture,s very own Editor, Elaine. Many happy returns and have a wonderful day!
The Slow Food Cheese Festival is even more amazing this year. With a huge turn out of producers from all over the world, there are many familiar faces and cheeses but also some new ones added to the mix.
Here are some of the scenes from yesterday as the Festival was warming up.. More to follow.
Continuing on the Austrian cheese tour, we paid a visit to Sennerei Hittisau.
Sennerei is an Austrian word for dairy or creamery - often referring to a co-operative. The cheesemaker at Sennerei Hittisau is Herbert Bauer, who produces a wonderful Allgau Bergkase, Bergtilsiter and Bachensteiner. In Austria and Bavaria, if "Bergkase" is preceded by the word "Allgau", it means that its a cheese made in the mountains during the summer months from the milk of cows grazing on the upper pastures. Equally, the same goes for Tilsiter in that if "Berg" (meaning "Alp") appears in the name, it is made in the summer in high pastures.
Here are some photos from the visit.
The end of this week sees the start of the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. Held every two years it is a spectacular event staged in the streets of this ancient town. Small scale cheesemakers and affineurs from all over the world converge to sell cheese, talk cheese, consume cheese and generally have a good time.
As if attending this event, wasn't enough of a privilege, the trip to Europe also affords many overseas visitors such as me, the opportunity to visit cheesemakers and producers in situ. This year, I have been spending time with my friend and colleague Norbert Sieghart of Kaeskuche. Norbert is a wholesaler and exporter of cheeses from Bavaria and the Allgaü region, a mountainous and spectacularly beautiful area reaching across from southern Germany into western Austria.
As a newcomer to the North Eastern US, I was excited to be part of the build-up surrounding of one of New England’s largest annual events and cheese competitions, The Big E.
The Big E – otherwise known as the Eastern States Exposition – takes place over a two week period near Springfield in Massachusetts, featuring a vast array of exhibits and shows ranging in theme from Agricultural and food related (including an area for New England Cheesemakers) through to a Circus, Equine competitions and rock concerts plus a whole lot more.
Late last year, the cheese competition organizer, Elena Hovagimian, contacted me to ask if I would like to be one of the judges. I readily accepted, pleased to have the chance to learn more about some of the best that New England has to offer.
It was great to learn recently about a joint initiative taking place between the Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development. and the Arlington Agricultural Research Station to establish and educate a National Guard Agricultural Development Team (ADT).
The ADT is a volunteer unit of Army National Guard Soldiers and Air National Guard Airmen, all of whom have pre-existing expertise in various aspects of agriculture. Early next year, the unit is due to be deployed to Kunar province in Afghanistan, a mountainous area located along the border near Pakistan. There, they will work closely with Afghan farmers with the aim of helping to rebuild their agriculture industry and alleviate poverty in the region.
Hot on the heels of culture’s Made in Japan article about the burgeoning Japanese cheesemaking industry, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr Ryota Nakao, a Japanese cheesemaker who has been spending two months in Wisconsin.
Mr Nakao, who is employed by Yotsuba Milk Product Company in Hokkaido, is taking part in a training exchange program facilitated by the Babcock Institute of Wisconsin.
A non-profit organization that is part of the University of Wisconsin, the Babcock Institute was established in 1991 specifically to promote collaborative international exchange of information, research and practices within the dairy industry. As well as providing opportunities for Wisconsin cheesemakers to intern overseas, many of Babcock’s outreach programs focus on countries with newly emerging dairy businesses, helping to foster market development.