Cheeses of Far Lands at the Biodiversity House

The Biodiversity House was still busy today hosting the representatives of a vast dairy biodiversity across the world that we want to promote here at Cheese. Today we had cheeses of far lands, from Africa and Ukraine to South Africa and Australia.

We started with Luc Falcot and Francois Borel, who were at the House with their Rove Brousse goat cheese (Slow Food Presidia). Traditionally prepared using milk from the Rove goat, a rustic breed well suited to the dry hills of the Provencal interior, Rove Brousse is a fresh unsalted cheese with a soft crumbly paste. It is made by heating goat milk and not letting it cool beyond 70°.

We moved onto Cape Verde with the producer Annibal Sabino Lima, representing the Cape Verde Planalto Norte raw milk goat cheeses Presidium. Here the cheesemaking community produces aged cheeses and are also experimenting with ricotta. When they have a milk surplus, they age cheeses in caves with a temperature of 14 degrees C, so in terms of temperature it is not ideal. The cheeses we tasted were made using Piedmontese milk, since it was impossible for them to bring their cheese from Africa. “Thanks to Slow Food, Cascina Rosa and the Region of Piedmont for supporting us,” said Annibal.

Now the word to Ukraine, to a cheese producer and the coordinator of Slow Food in Ukraine. We tasted three cheeses by the community in the Carpathian Mountains. Here in the Zakarpattia Oblast province, indigenous communities called Hutsuls produce cheese. Some of their cheeses are on board Ark of Taste.

She told us about how Slow Food activities have been developed in the region. “After the Soviet period, everything was industrialized and all that was considered traditional was eliminated. The belief was that standardization and factory products needed to go hand in hand with modernization.”

We tasted three types of cheese from the Ukranian community: Sheep’s milk Bryndza, Hutsul cheese, and Buddha, all from the Carpathian mountains where there are hills with different peoples populating with diverse customs and food traditions. The culture is very tightly connected to the livestock animals, where there isn’t much land to cultivate. “They don’t have alternative options so they rely on the goats they raise, from their wool and meat to their milk. Every month of May, every household would give over their goats and spend the entire summer in elevation.” Because sheep are very smart animals, they will find the best land and best plants. So their milk is very healthy and tasty. The cheeses we tasted certainly proved that.

Traditionally it’s men who take care of cheesemaking. They use only natural rennet, mixing the stomach of a lamb that has never eaten grass before, and they add a mixture of morning milk and evening milk.

Next we tasted Buddha, a slightly salty cheese. It’s consumed with a corn porridge similar to polenta. Similarly it can be consumed with vareniki, a sort of Ukranian ravioli, and also with potatoes. The market for these cheeses are small. They are part of the local culture and are also widely used in yearly festivals to celebrate the coming back of pastoralists.

In the Ukraine, there is a ban on raw milk cheeses. But next week the convivium will organize a Ukranian cheese festival with the attendance of cheesemakers, with the aim of discussing similar issues covered at Cheese. “We are all very proud of this festival that will take place in Kiev.”

Our next stop was Australia, with the producer Kris Lloyd from the south of Australia who is fighting to produce her cheeses with raw milk. A completely self-taught cheesemaker, she has been coming to Bra since 2002. “In Bra I found a galaxy of cheeses that I could have never imagined. Then I discovered raw milk cheeses, something not allowed in Australia.” After her visit to Bra, she decided to convince the authorities to make raw milk cheeses. “Here I am twenty years into my career, and I still can’t make or sell raw milk cheeses.”

Her cheese Harvest, is a true representation of Australia, named after the grape harvest season which coincides with her cheesemaking. “It is really important that we give the cheese its integrity. I don’t want to copy.” Harvest is from Jersey milk, so rich in butterfat. The cheese is washed with a local apple cider’s resin which remains at the bottom of the barrel. “For me the most important part about cheesemaking is to be able to still taste the milk in the cheese,” said Lloyd.

Now we move to South Africa with Brian Dick, tasting South African raw milk cheeses Presidium, including one from Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the richest areas of the country in terms of biological diversity. We are tasting four different cheeses by Brian that are each representative of four different regions of South Africa: Honeycomb, Carroo crumble, Lesedi, Blue Moon.

“We reached a point of maturity in the country that finally we can talk about not copying anymore and creating unique identity cheeses.” With deserts, vast mountain ranges, and sub-tropical climates present in the same country, the cheeses also reflect the diversity of terroirs with distinctively unique flavors. In this region the carrying capacity per animal is so low that if you over graze it, it will take years to regenerate.

The South African cheeses were paired with natural wines from Slovenia (Slavcek Belo), Sardinia (Dettori Denosi Rosso), and Puglia (Archetipi Primitivo).

“We have a severe climate change impact now. In the north of the country we are having floods. We don’t know how to proceed. I think the new campaign of Slow Food needs support so that we can all understand more about the impacts of climate change. But in the mean time, let’s all continue to eat good cheese,” he concluded.

Raffaella Ponzio, project director at Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity: “As the media talks about a lot, this past summer was the second worst summer in terms of experiencing the impact of climate change in food production. This is why Slow Food has decided to launch the new campaign on climate change, to inform consumers about the need to change our lifestyles. We can all do something to have a positive impact on the food system.”

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