One of the hero ingredients in the Plate of Origin 2016 dish by Chim Choo Ree and The Strong Room is Cilantro Cheese, and although it’s a small business it sure stands tall with it’s unique design and taste.
The brainchild of Jenny and Monica, Cilantro Cheese is the what happens when you combine two scientists and a gift of cheese making kit for Christmas! Specialising in goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, the duo were both working at AgResearch until seven years ago, when circumstances meant less time at work and more time getting out the cheese-making gift Jenny had received for Christmas.
The cheese-making started out as a bit of a hobby, one extremely well received by family and friends of the duo. Monica, who has lived in Italy and Brazil, developed a love for the sheep and goat’s cheeses that are so popular overseas. However, to Monica’s disappointment, when arriving in New Zealand she discovered cheese from any animal that wasn’t a dairy cow was practically unheard of.
“We used to not tell people what kind of cheese it was until after they had tasted it, because the idea that it was from a goat instead of a cow put them off”, explains Monica. “The goat’s milk is so fresh it attributes to the flavour of our cheese greatly, it gives it a more lemony flavour”, adds Jenny.
For now Cilantro is only producing small quantities, due to Jenny and Monica not being full time cheese-makers and because of the lack of sheep’s milk being produced in New Zealand. Thankfully the goat’s milk is readily in supply from a goat farm only 12km down the road.
Cam Farmilo from Chim Choo Ree in Hamilton has been using this artisan product for some time, and it’s fair to say he’s one of their biggest fans. “Cilantro cheese has been a part of my menus for the past 5 years, it is extremely versatile and most of all it’s flavor is second to none, its always great to have such an amazing local producer to work with” says Cam.
Some expansion is on the brain for Cilantro. “One day per week is devoted to product development. It’s the opportunity to trial new flavours and formulas for the cheeses”.
When asked “Why cheese?” the answer was simple; they love cheese! The perfect mix of science and art for a pair of talented women.
Cilantro is looking at giving opportunity to someone who may not have otherwise had the chance. “The process of cheese making can be repetitive and is very hygiene focused. It would be a position suited to someone who, for whatever reason, has exceptional attention to detail” explains Jenny. “Someone strong too! There’s quite a lot of heavy lifting involved so that would be helpful”, Monica adds.