We’re doing it again… help us spread the curd word…
We’re doing it again… help us spread the curd word…
A pictorial history of the event with some interviews of a handful participants for good measure.
I’m extremely proud to have been part of Team Eke in realising this event in Eketahuna. My personal vision was to offer a cheese event that was about building our community. No corporate sponsors or pseudo snobbery. I hate that shit. 🙂
Once upon a time, across little young New Zealand, a proud regional cheesemaking tradition thrived. Remember Saxelby Stilton, a cheese produced in Woodlands Invercargill from 1890 – 1935. It was exported all around the world and praised for its superior flavour. New Zealand’s most famous and most unknown cheese in its native land. These days, little young New Zealand is world famous overseas for its milk powders, infant formulas, block cheddars & assorted commodity industrial dairy products. The good NZ farm cheese, the cheese with a long characterful flavour and complexity, continues to be off the radar to many foreign folks and locals alike. This festival is a chance to explore and connect with a farm cheesemaking tradition kiwis once celebrated across New Zealand.
Like Saxelby Stilton, NZ has a modest history of new world farm cheese production relative to the old world cheesemaking traditions overseas. Good NZ cheese is one of the few locally produced foodstuffs where the best cheese is only available in NZ, not exported like most of everything else is. The regulatory requirements to export unfairly work against small NZ cheesemakers, particularly so for NZ cheesemakers producing raw milk cheese. No one stumbles into cheesemaking in New Zealand, you have to go way out of your whey to do it. MPI make it so much harder. If left unchallenged, food police will regulate cheese into a hermetically sealed and tasteless existence. The irony is, NZ is in this deliciously good cheese bubble and many folks don’t know it.
This is a small cheese fest in a small part of provincial NZ that has made a big impact on the state of veritable raw farmhouse NZ cheese. Cheese folks are gathering to celebrate and high five the unsung heroes of NZ small scale cheesemaking that persist in producing and preserving traditional cheese in NZ. While it might not be considered in the national interest, we think it is important that there is a vibrant cheesemaking movement in NZ.
In 1929, Pixie Cheese was manufactured in NZ as a competitor to Chesdale. It was made by N.Z. Co-Op Rennet Co Ltd in Eltham for Joseph Nathan & Co in Wellington.
I like The Pixies, so had to explore this further….
Arguably New Zealand most famous cheese, and the most unknown.
John and Betsy Saxelby and their six children arrived in New Zealand from Kings Norton, near Birmingham, early in the 1880s. John a farmer, and Betsy a classified maker of cottage cheeses, set to making Stilton in their cheese factory at Roslyn Bush, Invercargill. Farmers were paid 3&½ d per gallon for their raw shorthorn milk, a much better price than butter. As a result, a Stilton operation was suggested for trial in Taranaki.
Milk was left to acidify in it’s own time, the addition of whey starter was used by some if acidification of make moving too slowly.
Stilton cheese is principally made in small dairies of from six to ten cows. The milk is “run” at a low temperature – from 74 to 78 Fahr.: the application of hot water or steam is dispensed with. The curds and whey are first dropped into a strainer, and the whey is drawn off until the curd is formed into a cake. This is often allowed to remain for twenty-four hours, then broken small, and salted during the process of being placed in a mould. It continues in the mould until it is firm enough to stand – about eight or ten days – being turned every day. It is then removed from the mould, and the outside is scraped to fill up the cavities and render it smooth. A piece of cheese-cloth is pinned round the cheese, and it is removed into a temperature of not less than 70 Fahr. No external pressure is used for Stilton cheese. In about five or six months the blue veins begin to appear, and the prime Stilton is ready for market.
taken from ‘The Manufacture of Cheese, Butter and Bacon in New Zealand’ 1883
Whether Saxelby Stilton was made in the same way I’m yet to find out, Betsy Saxelby’s cheesemaking records are said to be knocking about somewhere in an Invercargill collection somewhere. I’ve contacted every provincial archive and museum in New Zealand. I suspect the treasure I seek is in a family private collection.
The cheese won many certificates, medals and trophies, often due to being the only cheese entered in it class. It was also proclaimed that Saxelby’s Stilton was ‘better stilton cheese than was being made in England’. Saxelby Stilton was exported around the world, it popped up on tables everywhere, yet its virtually an unknownn culinary treasure in New Zealand.
Saxelby Stilton jar seal from the Whanganui Museum.
Christmas advert from 1927.
A New Zealand Dinner in Paris, including NZ Stilton. Wanganui Chronicle – 1907
The famous NZ Stilton recipe hails from a Stilton producer from Leicestershire. Southland Times – 1907.
Saxelby Stilton at Smeetons, 75 Queen Street, 1927.Christmas advert from 1927.
New Zealand cheese map from 1940s, pre intensification of industrial dairy.
I HATE the word artisanal.
Art. Is. Anal.
The A word died a long time ago. Some purveyors, PR & marketing companies will still have you conveniently & conscientiously aspire to it.
Monday 14 May 2018 – Eketahuna Community Hall, Eketahuna!
Small cheese event for small cheesemakers in a small part of provincial New Zealand that has made a big contribution to NZ cheese. Join us!
Small cheesemakers and cheesemongers will be present chatting and tasting their cheeses.
IT’S GONNA BE HUGE.
AND its Eketahuna’s Biddy Fraser-Davies’ of Cwmglyn Raw Farmhouse Cheese 76th Birthday!! So an evening cheese banquet complete with Birthday mischief is planned.
These and a bunch more details TBC, but thus far there is mucho #CheeseSolidarity coming this whey.
Register your interest and keep up with developments on the event Facebook page here.