In 1979 Jan and John Walter bought their first goat to supply them with milk. "We were both teachers who had decided to live off the land and the size of cows intimidated us slightly so we got a goat to milk." Well, the goat had a kid and soon they were milking both. Then the Walters started experimenting with making yoghurt as well as producing milk for themselves and others.
For years and years people who liked their yoghurt and milk, asked whether they would consider making cheese. The Walters toyed with the idea and finally, in 2000, produced the first Crescent Dairy Cheese. For people who were not cheesemakers by trade, they certainly have a natural knack for it. Their products are snapped up by locals and are now available in gourmet stores too.
And it's not just we who think they are pretty good. They have been formally recognised numerous times at the Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards. Jan puts it down to happy goats. "When goats are stressed and struggling, their milk gets too strong for the delicate flavour we try to produce, so the best thing to do is make sure they are as happy as they can be." You get the impression the Walters would do that regardless, they're just that sort of people.
Jan also thinks the fact that the milk doesn't have to travel anywhere helps. "There is a fat globule in goat milk and when it gets shaken around it can burst, releasing capric acid. We're not fans of that resulting, very goaty, flavour."
One of our favourites is the Flat White and it seems we're not alone. "It just flies out the door and we really struggle to make enough sometimes." says Jan.
It has a mild feta-like taste but it's a fresh cheese and it has a texture which makes it just solid enough to cut. It's mild and creamy and would be great on fresh bread or in a salad. It is a five times gold medal winner.
The Old Gold is also very popular and awarded, it's matured in a cold, dark cellar for over a year. And we love their Taupaki Blue, a soft French-style cheese with roquefort culture injected resulting in a fabulous sharp/creamy contrast. The Parvenu is nice for those who like their cheese a bit milder and the ricotta is exquisite. It is unsalted, so perfect for sweet and savoury dishes. We think it may be the nicest ricotta we've tasted. It has an incredible texture.
Who would have known, back in 1990 when they started farming that 20 years later, the Walters would be sweeping the national awards with their organic artisan cheese?
We're certainly glad they listened to their friends' requests and gave it a go.
Where to buy
Farro Fresh, Dida's Herne Bay, Takapuna and Victoria Market and their farm shop: 177A Taupaki Rd, Kumeu Ph (09) 412 2074, and here.