First elk cheese has unique taste

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By ADEN MILES

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.

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