New German Cheeses

08 Sep 2011

Cheese expert Ursula Heinzelman will be leading the Taste Workshop New German Cheeses and Rhine-Hesse Wines. Here she gives us an insight into the workshop, telling us the stories behind the cheeses that will be part of the tasting:

Petra Elsen
Petra Elsen is a passionate farmer who took over her parents small estate, switching from cows to goats and introducing biodynamic agriculture in the rough hillside landscape of the Eifel region near the Luxemburg border. She learnt the art of cheesemaking in the Poitou region in France. To make her cheeses, she simply ladles the curd by hand in small moulds and then dry-salts the cheeses by hand. The somewhat larger than usual Chevrondelle, is completely her own creation. As for many other new generation cheesemakers in Germany, it has been difficult to organize distribution, but nowadays, Elsen has hardly enough cheese to satisfy demand.
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Sabine Denell and Hanspeter Dill
A veterinarian from northern Germany and a Swiss philosopher/taxi driver take over an isolated, run-down lock out of nowhere on the Havel river one hour north of Berlin, shortly after the German reunification, with the goal of building up a goat herd and making cheese. It is a somewhat crazy project, but it slowly takes shape, with a new dairy built recently, local icecream made from their own goat’s milk on offer for visitors, and, of course, all kinds of different sizes, shapes and ages of cheese. These two autodidacts walk their goats everyday on the surrounding heath, they love mature cheese, and they know what they are doing!
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Monika und Uli Leiner
The green hills at the foot of the Alps in the Bavarian south of Germany have long been known for their cheesemaking tradition, but it mostly consists of large wheels of hard mountain cheese, made from cows’ milk. The Leiners are a good example of the “back to the land” movement of the 1980s, who had no agricultural background to start with, but somehow got the cheese bug. In Moni Leiner’s case, it happened at an Alpine dairy in Switzerland and amongst her wedding present there were two goats. Up to this day she works with small copper cauldrons for making cheese, but like so many new German cheesemakers combines tradition with innovation by creating all kinds of new recipes and selling her cheeses herself at a number of open-air markets.
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Tobias Schüller
Originally from Munich, north of Hamburg, he trained as landscape architect, but then ended up in remedial education, and at Camphill in Scotland made his first cheese. This led him to one of the oldest German biodynamic farms in Germany, Hof Dannwisch north of Hamburg. Working with raw cows milk and his own starter culture, he makes traditional cheeses like Tilsiter, Gouda and Camembert-style ones. However, his most exciting creation is Aschekäse, a large soft cheese marbled with thin layers of ash. Some are aghast at this daring combination of unctuous and crumbly, black and white, strong and delicate, new and old, while for others it is a true representative of the terroir. Everybody certainly has a strong opinion about it.
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Berit und Norbert Fischer
As a young couple Berit and Norbert Fischer wanted to live the good life, in a simple way, renting an old farmer’s house in the picturesques small town of Langenburg southeast of Stuttgart, overlooking the winding river Jagst. They made their own bread and kept a few sheep to have milk for their children, making cheese from the left over milk in their kitchen. Fast forward 20 years and they have built a beautiful modern sheep farm and dairy, not far from the old house and offer the German version of a sheep’s milk blue cheese, Roque Blue. Norbert’s curly hair and Berit’s plait have greyed, but their energy is undiminished when they tend to their flock of over a hundred sheep in the open barn.
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Hofgemeinschaft Grummersort
A farm run according to anthroposophic principles by a small community in a nature reserve. Since the late 1970’s, the Grummersort’s work their own raw milk into all kinds of hard and soft cheeses (besides growing their own vegetables and baking their own bread). The star among these arguably is the Romadur, a small square soft cheese, which the Grummersort team claim is modelled on the Bavarian washed rind cheese of this name, but reminds one also of the Normandy Pont L’Evêque. It seems less exuberant than the Bavarian equivalent and combines strong aromas with a certain nordic acidity. Either way, it translates this flat, verdant landscape very elegantly into cheese.

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