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To Cheese or Not To Cheese

By David Malan, Cheesemaker - Kokerboom Kaas

What makes a diamond, rare stamp or coin, veteran car valuable? Scarcity. What makes biltong and charcuterie pricey? Loss of original mass, concentration of flavor and long processes involved. People regularly pay up to R1000 per kilo for packaged biltong in food stores – check it out.

Images by © East After Noon

Is it any wonder I flipped when a prospective customer told me that my Manchego style cheese was too expensive at R300 per kilo! Why would I flip at that? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Agreed but it should at least be considered before vocalized. If ignorant, walk away and don’t say anything. Let us look at that piece of Manchego style cheese (we call it Flamingo) that this person flung back into the cheese display, further irritating me.

The cheese started life as 40 litres of farm milk which was sent from the farm to the dairy shop in the village in the early hours. I collected the milk, warmed it to target temperature over an hour and proceeded to make the cheese. six hours later, the cheese was in the presses. It stood for a further 12 hours and went into the brine solution I had prepared, flipped after six hours and removed to air dry for a further three days. It was then boxed in plastic and placed in specially modified fridges to mature for another 2 months. During this period, the cheeses were flipped daily, the boxes dried out and the rind washed with brine until a favourable bloom appeared. It was now time to not only flip the cheeses daily but to massage them weekly with sweet paprika and olive oil.

When mature – three months later, the cheese is portioned, weighed, priced and taken to market, where people can cast aspersions about value!

We look after sixty Stilton style cheeses, sixty to seventy Camembert style cheeses along with fifty plus rounds of harder cheeses at any given time. Every day. No let up. We make new cheese five days a week on top of this. Huge staff? No – just Carolyn and I.

Biltong? It takes 24 hours to make with little or no attention save for slicing and selling.

Next time you pick up a piece of Artisan crafted cheese, please think about how cheap it really is.

We make carefully crafted cheese to be enjoyed as cheese alone. Not for toasties etc. You can buy cheddar and gouda from the roadside in our village for R65 per kilo. Our milk costs R85 to make a single kilo before the long process begins. Fundamentally, in both scenarios, you get what you pay for.

To conclude, commercial cheddar is supposed to be regulated by government to be aged a minimum of six weeks before it hits the supermarkets. Some commercial manufacturers advertise extra flavor in their chees. Ever wondered how it gets there? In under six weeks?


All photos were taken by the very talented, Georgia from East After Noon.

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