From April 30th – May 1st, 30 000 people attended the biggest outdoor culinary event in South Africa: the South African Cheese Festival . It’s known as the biggest event for good reason – the scale of this cheese festival is pretty massive. The cheese festival features the widest variety of cheeses in any one place!
Not only does the South African Cheese Festival feature an assortment of cheeses, but they also have a wide range of foods and drinks which are complimentary to cheese. It’s the best place for both long time standing cheese lovers (and novices) enjoy some good cheese and food in one convenient location.
With the spotlight on cheese this year at the cheese festival, festival goers were introduced to a wide variety of common and less commonly known cheeses. To give you a small taste of what was on show, think about Smoked Gouda, Nettle Cheddar, Smoked Mozzarella, soft goats cheese, lemon-pepper cream cheese, cajun flavoured Marisch and fig Brie.
Cheese lovers were also introduced to a collection of products complimentary to cheese, such as olives and olive oils, pestos, vegetable jams, nougat, honey, citrus balsamic pearls and wine.
The best part of this event was how well organized and fun it was. A great deal of time, attention to detail and planning was clearly invested into designing the event. There were tents on the perimeter of the festival grounds, which housed expo stalls and daily programmes. In the centre of the festival was the live music stage as well as tables and chairs to relax on and enjoy the music.
For all things cheese, festival goers could head to the Checkers Cheese Emporium. To learn about fantastic, complimentary cheese pairing, Cape Made: Taste the Alternatives exhibition and the Agri-Expo Mall were popular choices. The South African Cheese Festival even had a Milk Factory section with cows and goat where you could learn about all things dairy related. If hunger struck, there was a wonderful section of appetite inducing food for sale in the Gourmet Lane.
Festival goers were not only exposed to a few hundred different type of cheese and complimentary pairings, but could also enjoy cooking shows in the Checkers Theatre, hosted by South African celebrity chefs which included the very popular Jenny Morris, Jody Theodore and Nataniël. I was able to catch a cooking show with Jenny Morris and Jody Theodore and able to sample the food they cooked on the show at the very end!
With the spotlight on cheese, the choices of new and unusual cheese variations seemed endless. One cheese after the next seemed to consistently knock my socks off, and before I knew it I had purchased enough cheese to fill my tote bag to the brim.
Here is an overview of some of the wonderful cheeses at the South African Cheese Festival:
Langbaken Karoo Cheese: Ash Karoo Camembert
Anysbos: Caprino (goat’s milk pecorino)
Anysbos Cheese make delicious goat’s milk cheese with a key star being their Caprino cheese. The Anysbos Caprino is a pecorino-style, medium-hard cheese with a bold flavour and light texture. While there are many ways to enjoy this cheese, our favourite is served on top of warm, home-baked bread.
Karoo goat’s milk products: Cheese Delights
Karoo goat’s milk products create a range of delicious cheeses from goat’s milk, including two fablous cheeses: Goat’s Milk Mint Halloumi and the featured Cheese Delights. The Cheese Delights are a unique take on cottage cheese, by packaging them in the shape of a ball, preserved in olive oil. They are soft and creamy to eat, with a lovely mild flavour.
Taaibosh Kaas: Biltong Gouda
If you love trying new things, then Taaibosh’s Biltong Gouda is a must. Pairing one of South African’s top snacks; biltong, with cheese is a recipe for success. Another product which was a delightful surprise was their range of goats milk ice-cream!
Kasselshoop: Smoked Gouda & Nettle Cheddar (with featured onion preserve)
Kasselshoop sells a small, yet interesting, variety of Gouda and Cheddar cheeses, with two outstanding flavours including the Smoked Gouda and the Nettle Cheddar. Nettle, a plant well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, are added to white cheddar. Pair this cheese with a vegetable preserve or jam and you have a feature on your cheese platter.
La Petite France: Camembert
La Petite France cheese is produced in Howick, KZN, producing a small range of French style hand made cheeses using creamy cow’s milk. While their range currently includes Brie, Feta Cheese, Tilsiter (chedder) and Blue Cheese, their best selling cheese is the Camembert. Made from Jersey cow milk, this Camambert has a soft, creamy taste, with a bolder flavour when compared to their Brie Cheese.
Anura: Mountain Cheese & Fig Brie & Marisch
Anura’s cheese are a real treat to eat. The make a decadent selection of cow’s milk cheeses, with a few hard cheeses and a few soft. Their best selling cheese is their Mountain Cheese, a 7 month mature hard cheese with a lovely nutty flavour. Their S.A Champion award winning cheese however is their Marisch Cajun cheese which has a nice bite, thanks to the cajun flavour!
Latana Cheese: Miela Cream Cheese
If you love soft and creamy cream cheeses, don’t let Latana Cheese’s Miela Cream Cheese pass you by. Latana transforms the ordinary cream cheese into something magical by adding in tiny pieces of dried tomatoes. The result is heavenly and worth every buck spent on their block of cheese.
Klein River Farmstead Cheese: Havarti
Klein River Farmstead has a lovely range of cheeses, with their Harvarti standing out from the rest. This hard cheese is 4.5 months matured, and has a hazelnut flavour and a creamy texture.
Puglia: Scamorza (Smoked Mozzarella)
Knocking all other Mozzarella cheeses out of the water, is this Scamorza smoked mozzarella produced by Puglia. The naturally soft and moist texture of mozzarella is enhanced with a smokey flavour that puts all other mozzarella cheeses to shame. Hand made by award winning cheese makers, this cheese is best eaten melting hot.
As one does love food to eat with the cheese, here are some honorable mentions, based on my personal taste buds:
Chrisna’s Olives: Mediteranian olives
Chrisna’s Olives is a family run olive company selling some of the most delicious olives I have ever eaten. Their range of products sells all sorts of interesting and mouth watering olives, from herb marinated to stuff. My personal favourite olives however are the mediterranean olives: ripe olives, feta cheese and rehydrated sundried tomatoes with lots of basil and olive oil. It’s literally like a party in your mouth, and I can’t wait to get my hands on another container full!
Passionate Pomegranate: Pomegranate preserve
If you are as passionate about pomegranate as much as the couple behind this brand, then you are in for a real treat. Selling a range of products featuring the healthy pomegranate products, our undying favourite is the pomegranate preserve in rose flavour. Add a spoonful of the preserve onto your yoghurt and you have yourself a healthy yet delicious dessert.
Froggit: Cavi-ah! Citrus balsamic pearls
Changing the way your cheeses will ever be consumed ever again, Froggit brings you the strangest looking yet palate pleasing citrus balsamic pearls. These pearls are essentially teeny balls of balsamic vinegar that are dropped through a tiny dropper into cold olive oil, and flavoured with citrus. The result when paired together with cheese (our favourite) or added to a salad is mind-blowing.
Fynbos: Smoked chili pesto
Pesto’s have been around for decades, yet this smoked chili pesto is a flavour that stands out when compared to it’s brothers and sisters. While initially having quite a spicy flavour on its own, when paired with other foods it taste becomes slightly milder and added a delicious, smokey note to food. Fynbos has done an excellent number on this chili pesto, and we highly recommend adding a thin layer to your cheese and crackers duo.
Willowcreek: Green olives stuffed with pimentos
Taking olives to the next level is Willowcreek with their delicious green olives stuffed with pimentos! These olives are a perfect addition to your cheese platter.
Buttanutt: Macadamia, coconut & Rooibos
Nut butters are not a new food trend, but Buttanutt’s take on nut butter is. Their combinations are creative and delicious, with the macadamia, coconut and Rooibos offering something special. Nut butter is so versatile too- eat it on rice crackers, bread, fruit or in a smoothie!
Curds & Whey: Farm yoghurt
The best yoghurts are those fresh from the farm. Curds and Whey sells yummy, greek style, full cream yoghurt made from the freshest cow’s milk on their farm. It is also low in sugar making it the perfect breaking food. Pair this with some pomegranate preserve and you have a winning recipe.
Sweet Cillie’s Cakery: Coconut & Pineapple Cheese cake
For the love of all things sweet, Sweet Cillie’s Cakery takes it home with their to-die-for cakes. As a personal cake eating fanatic, I am yet to come across another cheesecake combination that is as wonderful as their coconut, pineapple and cream cheese cake. By combining layers of traditional cake with cream cheese, and with the addition of coconut and pineapple, you are left with fantastic slice of cake.
Die Backstube: Parmesan twist
You cant’ enjoy cheese without bread, and the bakers at Die Backstube bake artisan bread answer your bread calls with their fantastic selection of baked goods. While baking a wide variety of breads, tarts and pies, their must-eat bread is the Parmesan Twist.
The South African Cheese Festival was a lovely and fun way to spend the long weekend, and had some of the most amazing cheese in the spotlight. Here are a few more photos taken from the festival.
If you would love to go to the next South African Cheese Festival, it will be taking place on 28th – 30th April in Sandringham, Stellenbosch.