First elk cheese has unique taste
In what is believed to be a world first, the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru has made cheese from elk’s milk.
Master cheesemaker Neil Willman has spent 18 months trialling it.
Mr Willman was approached by Graeme Shaw, former manager of Queenstown’s Matakauri Lodge, and third- generation Maniototo elk farmer John Falconer to help create the cheese last year.
Elk are extremely difficult to milk in the confined space of a milking shed.
Despite working in the industry for more than 30 years, Mr Willman said had learnt new skills from treating the elk’s milk.
‘‘Initially we had to see whether we could make cheese out of it.
‘‘It is extremely rich and has four times the amount of solids as cow’s milk.
‘‘It just does not behave like cow’s milk,’’ he told South Waikato News this week.
‘‘It is very easy to make harder cheese but I wanted to make softer cheeses. In the 30 years that I have been making cheese, I was learning new things and picking up on different techniques.’’
The trials proved a success, with Mr Willman able to produce a different flavoured cheese.
‘‘It had a very unusual taste to it, like a ‘what is that?’
‘‘It is just fantastic. It has such a unique flavour to it. The milk is expressing itself the way nothing else does,’’ he said. It seems to be a world first. ‘‘There has been a reference to something similar in Sweden but when researching they have used moose, which is different to elk.
‘‘We can’t find any others that are for full sale application.’’
Over the Moon Dairy Company director Sue Arthur was thrilled about the development.
‘‘It is great. We had to keep it under wraps. My factory is the only elk cheese producing factory and it is another feather in our cap.’’
The elk cheese will go on sale next year.
FIRST IN THE WORLD: Neil Willman is master cheese maker at the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru, which has developed cheese made from elk’s milk.