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Unveiling the Secret Ingredient in Taranaki's Acclaimed Cheeses

New Zealand 02.04.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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Eltham, nestled in South Taranaki, boasts a rich history of pioneering achievements. From exporting New Zealand's first butter to erecting the country's inaugural concrete power pole, this town has consistently been at the forefront of innovation. However, amidst its illustrious past, Eltham has also garnered acclaim for its exceptional cheeses.
Unveiling the Secret Ingredient in Taranaki's Acclaimed Cheeses
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Cathy Lang, a Master Cheesemaker at Fonterra's Bridge Street dairy factory in Eltham, affectionately refers to her hometown as a "hidden gem under the mountain." At the Bridge Street creamery, Lang and her team craft an impressive array of cheeses, ranging from traditional favorites to unexpected delights.

Among Eltham's cheese offerings, one standout is the renowned Kāpiti Kikorangi Blue, consistently earning accolades both domestically and internationally. Despite bearing the Kāpiti name, these cheeses are meticulously handcrafted on-site, alongside various Mainland soft cheeses, exemplifying Eltham's commitment to quality and innovation.

At the heart of Eltham's cheese-making legacy lies a closely guarded secret: the Eltham blue mould. Originating from Penicillin Roquefort, discovered in French caves centuries ago, this unique strain has been cultivated locally since 1951. Its preservation is of paramount importance, with contingency plans in place to safeguard its legacy.

Employing traditional methods, Eltham's cheesemakers meticulously attend to each batch, from stirring curds to hand-turning maturing cheeses. The maturing rooms offer a sensory journey, with aromas ranging from sweet to earthy, showcasing the natural progression of each cheese's development.

Lang's passion for cheese-making traces back to her childhood fascination with molds and fungi. Combining her love for science and agriculture, Lang found her calling in cheese-making, viewing it as both a science and an ancient craft.

With approximately 140 employees, most of whom are local residents, the Bridge Street creamery serves as a vital hub within Eltham's community. Beyond its economic contributions, the creamery offers a Cheese Bar open to the public, providing access to premium cheeses at affordable prices.

Central to Eltham's cheese-making prowess is its access to fresh, pasture-fed milk, sourced from local farms mere minutes away. This commitment to quality, coupled with the region's fertile land and abundant rainfall, underscores Eltham's status as a cheese-making paradise.

As Eltham continues to celebrate its cheese-making heritage, its dedication to excellence remains unwavering. Recent accolades, including gold awards for signature cheeses like Kikorangi Blue and innovative creations like Mainland Special Reserve chili and garlic brie, attest to Eltham's enduring legacy of cheese-making excellence.

In essence, Eltham's cheeses are not merely culinary delights; they embody the spirit of community, tradition, and innovation that defines this picturesque town nestled beneath the mountain.
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