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The owner / cheesemaker Francy says, “the better the milk, the better the cheese.” The cows are named after the women in the family, and are also fed nutritious organic lucerne. “Because they are so isolated the cows have never been sick once and none of them have ever had mastitis,” says Peter.
“Once a year all the cows are artificially inseminated at the same time around November and then we dry them off in July. This gives us a chance to go on holiday and escape the harsh Karoo winter,” Francy says, and gives the cows a change to enjoy their maternity leave. They also keep a few free-range pigs that are fed on the whey from the cheesery.
All the cheese is produced from unpasteurised milk, because Francy believes this method produces more flavoursome cheese. “Commercial cheese factories tend to use pasteurised milk to standardise the end product and have more control over the bacteria in the cheese. But because we have such a small operation it is easier to control hygiene,” she says.
In order to produce cheese from unpasteurised milk, hygiene is of the utmost importance. This starts in the dairy, which has to be kept squeaky clean at all times. They also go to extra lengths to clean the cows’ udders properly before milking, cleaning each teat individually by washing, sanitising and drying them to ensure no harmful bacteria in the milk.
Francy insists that the quality of raw milk is crucial to guarantee a good end result. “We chose Jerseys because their milk is creamier and higher in butterfat than milk from other breeds. Because I use unpasteurised milk no two batches of cheese ever taste exactly the same.”
This is one of the small but important details that distinguish Langbaken handcrafted cheese from commercially produced products. The cheese also has a natural rind, which means that no artificial coating or wax is used. The natural mould that grows on the rind imparts a unique earthy, musty flavour.