Northern Ireland’s City Cheese Strikes Gold!

Northern Ireland’s City Cheese Company gained a gold award at the recent Artisan Cheese Awards in Britain for a new raw milk goat’s cheese.

The artisan business, based at Ballywalter in county Down, launched the goat’s cheese, the latest in a series of cheeses developed by founder and owner Christo Swanepoel, a South African now resident in Northern Ireland, at the event in Melton Mowbray.

City Cheese was among 115 producers at the awards and cheese festival, the UK’s largest for the artisan cheese sector.

Christo Swanepoel, commenting on the award, says: “It’s immensely encouraging to win such important recognition within the artisan cheese category for what is a new development for us, our first goat’s cheese. Gold at the first attempt for a new cheese for us is pretty good.

“Making a goat’s cheese is something I had been contemplating following the success of our raw milk gouda-style cheeses. It’s also a raw milk cheese that we source from an Irish goat farm. It’s a very rustic cheese that’s both handmade and handpressed. The cheese has a very subtle flavour. I am looking forward to feedback from customers over the next few weeks.”

The new cheese is now Northern Ireland’s only artisan raw milk goat’s cheese and is available in 400g and 4kg wheels.

A gourmet chef from Pretoria in South Africa, Mr Swanepoel has been based in Northern Ireland for almost a decade. He’s launched three quite different cheeses under the overall identity of his artisan business, City Cheese, all raw cow’s milk products.

The decision to use raw milk was influenced by his conviction that it offers a much richer flavour. “To me, raw milk cheeses are more delicious and contain natural enzymes that infuse cheese with natural, deeper and exciting flavours.

At the Artisan Cheese Awards, a total of 24 prizes were handed out which recognised the best cheeses for texture, animal origin, raw milk, type and nationality. Over £10,000 was raised in sponsorship as prize money given directly to the winning cheesemakers.

A total of 46 golds were awarded by the judges with 55 silvers and 52 bronzes also being handed out. Of the 115 cheesemakers who entered, 16 were from Ireland followed by Scotland with 9 and Wales with 7. City Cheese was the only entrant from Northern Ireland.

There was a very good representation, 30 cheesemakers, and another 30 from small producers. 62 percent of the cheeses entered were made with vegetarian rennet. 40 percent were made with raw milk. Only 11 percent were organic. 72 percent of the entries were made from cow’s milk, 11 percent sheep’s milk and 17 percent from goat’s milk.

The 7th Artisan Cheese Fair followed the awards with 69 cheesemakers from the UK and Ireland selling their cheeses directly to several thousand visitors who attended the event.