"It all started some years ago in Naples, Italy, with a plate of mozzarella." For Alison Tuling, a metallurgical engineer and researcher at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, tasting fresh cheese is a incredible experience. On her return to South Africa, Allison was determined to be able to continue savoring similar products, but tracking down authentic mozzarella in Pretoria proved to be very difficult. Eventually she decided to learn how to make them herself, alternating her research on metals with investigations into the tricks of the cheesemaking process. And so, she started to acquire the basic skills of a cheesemaker, but never suspecting that her passion would turn into a successful career.
Alison's decisive moment came some time later, whilst on vacation in Europe: "While visiting a French city, my husband and I developed a fancy for Reblochon de Savoie cheese, which once again was very difficult to find when we returned to South Africa... After some more research and experimentation in my home kitchen, my personal version of Reblochon was born. In homage to its origins, I called it Replo Alpino."
While searching for the perfect milk to make her cheese, Alison met Danie Schutte, owner of the organic Bronberg Farm in East Pretoria. Danie raises Ayrshire cattle and produces a high quality yogurt, and his milk turned out to exactly what Alison was after. In October 2011, production of Reblo Alpino began on a small-scale ((20 liters of milk with each coagulation) at Bronberg Farm; but it is destined to grow quickly. Alison is now supplying several restaurants in the city, and her cheeses are distributed in Johannesburg through the Cheese Gourmet store run by Jo and Brian Dick (coordinator of the South African Raw Milk Cheeses Presidium).
Reblo Alpino was created as a Reblochon, but during the aging period it develops a personality of its own: the rind, for example, is washed less than its prototype and develops a characteristic white mold. However, Reblo Alpino does share many of the typical traits of Reblochon, such as an intense flavor and a smattering of small holes, which result from the use of raw milk. "Whilst carrying out trials I also produced a pasturized version of this cheese, which was more similar to a Camembert. The difference between the two cheeses was striking: complex and multifaceted in the case of the raw milk product, and one-dimensional in the case of the unpasteurized." Alison organizes tastings that allow participants to taste and compare these two versions of the same cheese (raw milk or pasturized) to build awareness among consumers of the merits - including organoleptic - of raw milk.
Alison's cheeses were identified to Slow Food by its South African network well before the project for the South African Raw Milk Cheeses Presidium was launched, and were exhibited at the 2012 edition of Salone del Gusto in Turin. Reblo Alpino, in particular, has also had great success at national events such as Agri-Expo 2012 in Cape Town and the Bloemfontein Show 2012/2013.
Discover with us the Slow Food South African Campaign on raw milk!