New Zealand is a country well known for taking dairy products to the world. But, while we are known as dairy export oriented, one of the things that has really stood out, as The FoodPath NZ team has travelled the country, is the quality of our artisan cheesemakers.
The range of products that our specialty cheesemakers create for the local market and visitors to our lovely country is truly extraordinary. We think there’s a lot to be celebrated about our cheese, all made with care right here - these amazing craftspeople really do New Zealand proud.
Going back in time
A potted history… Cows first arrived in New Zealand in the early 1800s. Of course, in those times, with butter, cheese and yoghurt having a far better shelf life than milk and cream, households would be all over making their own, from the family cow.
Moving along a little further in time, New Zealand’s first dairy factories appeared later on that century, producing butter and cheese - the very first in Waikato and Taranaki, famous farming regions still. With transport restricted to horse and cart (and no refrigeration on board), they necessarily became numerous, dotted all about the place (peaking at about 600!), many co-operatively owned. It has to be said, the metal cream can could only travel so far.
Nowadays, of course, the landscape of New Zealand’s mega dairy industry has changed immensely. There are vastly different transport options, state of the art refrigeration, and economies of scale.
The magic of cheese
But, ever so happily, our artisan cheesemakers remain, for us to find and feast.
Cheese is one of those clever things that is a unique combination - on one hand utterly sophisticated, and yet in another sense splendidly simple. Who could have guessed that you could take the soured coagulated solids of one product - milk - and turn it into so many different tasting treasures.
That’s the magic of cheese, and the cheesemaker, not to mention the special creature behind it all, the usually grass-fed and deservedly pampered cow, sheep or goat.
Our special New Zealand craftspeople
Here in New Zealand our craft cheesemakers nowadays use a magnificent range of techniques, and milks, to create cheeses expressing their locale perfectly, and tasting (and sometimes even looking!) quite truly out of this world.
And, to a traveller’s great delight, you can seek out around New Zealand artisan craft cheesemakers using techniques of old and new, producing charming and divine cheeses that are undoubtedly world class. These special cheesemakers, and also specialist cheesemongers, are tucked away in regions right throughout the country. Many might be just a little off the beaten track, but they are so worth a visit. There’s usually a chance for a fabulous chat, and perhaps a glance at the dairy, where all the good things happen.
Our Cheese Mapped cheese trail
On our Cheese Mapped cheese trail, on our New Zealand Food Trail Guides app, we’ve included the cheesemakers and cheesemongers that we’ve visited, so far, that are open to the public - yes, you can go and visit them too! We hope you get a chance to pop in to see some of them on your travels. But do remember, not all of our cheesemakers have farmgates or shop fronts to visit - so be sure to stay on the lookout for other fabulous artisan cheese brands at farmers’ markets and specialty food stores throughout the country.
The perfect meal
For an undoubtedly classic kiwi food moment, there’s nothing like a picnic, or an end of day drink in the sunshine, with some gorgeous local cheese. So if you need a spot of inspiration for simple ideas with that stunning product you’ve found, have a look here…