Unearthing the Cheese Making Havens of India
Avery Aames, in her work The Long Quiche Goodbye, very rightly says, “Life is great. Cheese makes it better”. When it comes to cheese making or having it — the list of connoisseurs is never ending. Though cheese farms are an inseparable part of many cultures and countries, not many expect India to have a presence on the global cheese map in any big way. However, gear up to turn all your beliefs topsy-turvy as you explore the best cheese making hubs in India. Artisan cheese, traditional chhena and paneer, processed cheese as well as locally made cheese inspired from foreign flavors — Indian cheese entrepreneurs are hitting a high note — and how!
A peek at the top cheese-making spots in India that are a must-visit:
La Ferme Cheese, Auroville
Started 25 years back, La Ferme is a name to reckon when it comes to making cheese in India. Benny, the Dutch cheese expert, leads from the front. From mascarpone to mozzarella, and gorgonzola to cheddar – there are umpteen varieties to pick from. The cheeses here are inspired from a variety of international styles of cheese making — but with a south-Indian twist! They are innovated upon as per the local climate. The milk is obtained from their very own dairy, even as La Ferme Cheese personnel religiously supervise its preservative-free quality. They produce artisanal cheeses, including soft cheeses like feta and ricotta, as well as seasoned varieties like the nutty lofabu, the sweet-tasting gruyere, parmesan and goat’s cheese.
Cinnabar Farms, Kodaikanal
Staying on an organic farm and participating in its farming — more exotically its cheese making process — is a dream come true for food lovers. The Cinnabar Farms is one of those indulgent countryside homes that offers visitors a package for stay-overs for a couple of days. The farm now specialises in Cinnamano — a hard Italian style cheese, and Cinnableu — a creamy blue cheese. Simply stroll on the porch, or walk around seeing how the best of cream cheese and mozzarella is churned — right before your eyes!
Himalayan Cheese, Kashmir
Seek artisan cheese in India? Head straight to Kashmir — a cheesy enterprise by the names of Himalayan Cheese. The cheese making here is of sustainable grade and traditionally inspired from the local communities. The Dutch threads are evident — thanks to its Dutch founder Chris Zandee. The most exclusive variety to be tried here is the fried cheese called kalari – the local gujjar word for cheese. Of course, everything else from gouda to cheddar is available.
A.B.C Farms, Pune
Little did the founders of A.B.C — Adi Bathena, Rohinton Aga and Eruch Chinoy know that their school of cheese making would score such a six, when starting out in Pune. From alcohol cheese to ham cheese, Pecorino goat cheese to Port Wine cheese — the hub is well known for the unique touch it lends to cheese making. Its chief claim to fame has been the annual A.B.C. Farms Food And Cheese Festival that sees the best in the industry come together for a round of tasting cheese in every possible flavour — from salmon to coffee!
Acres Wild Farm, Coonoor, Nilgiri Hills
This hub is so famous that travellers stop here for cheese making trips that last over a day. Filmmaker Mansoor Khan’s famed eco-farmstay is now part of Coonoor folklore. The farm specialises in 100% vegetarian cheeses, using microbial coagulants to get the job done. From cheddar to ricotta, from Halloumi to mold cheese — get floored with the over 20 different varieties of cheese made here. Acres Wild offers a splendid two-day hands-on workshop on gourmet cheese making. The sylvan settings provide the perfect backdrop to a vacation surrounded by artists engaged in cheese making.
Bandel, Hooghly, West Bengal
This quaint yet historically-famed town, dating back to the colonial reign of Portugal in Bengal, is famed for its unique smoked cheese. Being native to this place, I have personally seen how the cheese is made and have licked up the tantalizing salty-sweet taste that comes with a “difference.”
There is barely scope to cover all possible varieties of cheese available in the country — let alone cover all manufacturers (or should we say artists?) making these! India is finally making a mark on the cheese scene as the world never expected even a decade back. Perhaps we have finally learnt to have our cheese and make it too!
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