Foxenburg - Goat's Cheese made with Love
I have always loved Foxenburg dairy products. They are a healthy alternative for those who do not tolerate cows milk and they just happen to be delicious too. Over the years they presence has grown, and so has the range of products that they make.
Without the constraints of the shop I took my parents with me to visit the farm, situated up in the mountains outside of Wellington. It was mid October and I was happy to see that they still had all the kids on the farm, they are so cute and affectionate and they were happy to have the extra attention.
It was such a rewarding experience to see the farm and how the dairy products are made. The goats have four "suburbs", each with a big open field and a goat hotel that they can wander in and out of and where they sleep at night. Each group has a turn to wander into a larger section of the farm. They all looked in such good condition and those that are frail or ill are kept in a special area closer to the dairy.
I was always concerned that we were taking milk away from the kids but from birth they are given their mother's milk. This first milk is not appropriate for cheese making but perfect for baby goats. After this they are then fed by bottle with a mixture of milk and whey (left over from cheesemaking) which is rich in protein. They are fed until they reach a weight of 15kg and then they start to wean them. Once weaned they are then sold to other farmers.
If you have children, early spring is an exciting time to visit the farm, full of baby goats, the children can help feed the babies their bottles. They have five self catering cottages and there is plenty to do making it perfect for a family weekend away. You can experience a real working farm plus you get to stock up on Foxenburg products.
Winnie the cheese maker greeted us and showed us into the milking shed. This is pretty high tech. The goats are milked twice a day. Hooked up to the milking machine each goat has a tag and can be monitored through a computer system. If a goat has a drop in milk production they then know that the goat may be unwell and need attention.
Anyone who has tasted Foxenburg products knows that they don't have a very 'goaty flavour" this is down to cleanliness. The goats are kept in very good conditions and they are clean and healthy this comes through in the flavour of the dairy products. I discovered one of the reasons for their health is olive leaf. The farm also produces an award winning olive oil. In autumn the olive trees get pruned and all the cuttings go to the goats. Imagine that, the goats get an immune boost for winter from the olive leaves they munch.
Someone was telling me they tried a tub of the yoghurt and while they found it delicious were surprised how much it cost. So let me explain what you are paying for. When we visited there were about 700 goats on the farm, including kids. Of that about 350 are milking goats and each goat produces between 2 - 5 litres of milk per day. So let's take an average of 3 litres per day that is 1,050 litres per day. It takes 240 litres of milk to make 70 litres of yoghurt. The yoghurt is strained losing 170 litres of liquid to get the Greek/Turkish style they are famous for. Most commercial yoghurt is not strained but rather a thickener is added to the thin yoghurt to make it seem thick. So you really do pay for what you get.
What I didn't realise is that goat's milk contains less butter fat so is lower in fat than cows milk. For the delicious hard cheeses that they make they need 300 litres of milk to make 20kg of hard cheese. They use a non-animal rennet when making the cheese.
Once the cheese is made it is put into a natural sea salt brine for about 4 days, the hard cheeses do contain salt. After this the cheeses are dried for about a week or more and then painted with an antibacterial cheese paint to protect them from mould. They are then put into the cool room and left to mature from 4 months for gouda to 11 months for Renosterbos.
The stainless steel cheese making container on the left can hold 300 litres of milk. From that the four cheese rounds are made, they are being left out to dry.
The whole dairy is run by three lovely ladies. Marianne the owner takes care of the goats and overseas the dairy. Her husband Jan is involved in the olive trees from which they make organic olive oil and table olives.
The range of dairy products has increased over the years but the quality has always remained consistently high. This is a farm worth supporting because the care that they have for the animals, their workers and the environment is reflected in the products that they produce.