Sisterhood of the Traveling Cheeses

Sisterhood of the traveling (or in one case unraveling) cheeses

I took a cheese making class at a wee farm in Marlborough Sounds, a filigree of land that extends from New Zealand’s South Island into Cook Strait. The teacher, Lisa Harper, produces her own line under the Sherrington Grange name for local restaurants. She also sells it at the Blenheim farmers market. Here’s what we did:

First we pasteurized the milk (from the cow Cocoa, who can be seen from the kitchen window) by warming it slowly while stirring it. Since Cocoa had just been milked, this didn’t take long. The first cheese we made was a ricotta (so ridiculously easy!) for lunch, using vinegar as the only other ingredient.

Lisa grabbed some fresh mint and chives growing just outside the kitchen door. She mixed these with the ricotta, and added salt, pepper, and nutmeg. We ate it on homemade bread. Yum! Definitely try this at home!
After lunch we made two cheeses (or at least started them on their way—these two require aging): Camembert and parmesan. Cheeses need to sit at a constant temperature and relatively stable humidity level to age properly—both are pretty much impossible to achieve in a camper van cooler (a chilly bin, to you kiwis out there). The camembert needs 21 days and the parmesan needs four months. They also both need to be flipped on a regular basis.

Since the cheeses require some nurturing in order to develop properly, Lisa’s students usually name their cheeses. Since the delicate Camembert cannot handle life on the road and has broken into as many pieces as Sally Field’s Sybil had personalities, she now bears that name.

Sybil, falling to pieces

Parmesan is sturdier stuff. To honor its Italian roots and its ability to endure, I’ve named the cheese Donatella, as in Versace. Hopefully she’ll be a little more accepting of the aging process than her namesake.

Donatella, holding it together quite nicely

I’m flying back to the states in a couple of weeks, and hope to bring Donatella with me. Fingers crossed!

A plate of Sherrington Grange cheeses, which I’ve had a good nibble at. Havelock, dipped in a 10-year-old, oak-aged, local brandy then wrapped in sweet chestnut leaves, is my favorite. The cheese in front is d’Urville Island, a cheddar. The lovely wrinkly rinded piece piece is Sherrington Blue. The last slice, a crumbly creamy number, is called Cocoa, after the cow that provided the milk.

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the 4th leg…

The following photos are taken in a rainforest north of Haast Beach

I think the ferns have won

Tiny moss? Fern? Lichen? It's hard to tell what it is, but it's beautiful.

This is a moss seal—they're extremely rare! This one is particularly tame. It has such a placid nature!

More fuzzy mossy goodness

Hoping a yellow penguin pops up (Turns out I was looking for the wrong penguin on the same island. It was the same day that an

fern mantle

Golden Beach, where I stopped and turned around so that I could head toward the east coast in time for a lunch date the next day at Fleur's Place in Moeraki.

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On the road again, part 3

Restaurant (closed for season) and dock

The dock, where fishermen bring in rock lobster, tuna, groper (aka grouper), and other fish

Beach on way back to Haast

Cool pattern imprinted on a washed-up tree

More ponies!

A pukeku strutting about and striking poses

More pukekus

Whitebait fritters. Best dish ever. They're made of lots of tiny fish all held together with a lovely light batter. It's a west coast specialty.

We will protect this plant!

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On the road again, part two

Just as the sun rose, around 8:20. This was on June 21, about the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. (Andbelow, being below the 45th parallel, the sun sets before 5 making it even harder to see many sights before night falls!).Shots from a nearby fisheryWhite heron by a lagoon. These birds are very rare in New Zealand.Looking south to the end of the roadThat little notch before the last hill jutting into the Tasman Sea is Jacksons Bay, or “Bay of Disillusionment.” The settlers who lived there for three years in the 1830s trying to make the most of acreage that turned out to be swampland. The southern road ends. To the east lies Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordlands National Park falls below it.

Shots from a nearby fishery

Shots from a nearby fishery

White heron by a lagoon. These birds are very rare in New Zealand.

Looking south to the end of the road

That little notch before the last hill jutting into the Tasman Sea is Jacksons Bay, or "Bay of Disillusionment." The settlers who lived there for three years in the 1830s trying to make the most of acreage that turned out to be swampland. The southern road ends. To the east lies Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordlands National Park falls below it.

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On the road again

I love road trips. But trying to go too far too fast can throw off the balance between driving (which is lots of fun here with all of the twisty roads) and sight seeing. The plan goes from leisurely romp to race against time. In this case I needed to be near Dunedin on the east coast in less than two days, and I had decided to see how far up the west coast road I could get before then—once I drove over the Southern Alps.

Clearly my ambition got the best of me with this little overnight plan. But, it was still worth it, because I visited wilderness so unique it has been declared a World Heritage Area. It is mostly preserved within four national parks that cover much of the south and west coast, as well as areas inland. The landscape is very wild and beautiful, with rain forests, fjords, and glaciers. I went south to Jacksons Bay (or, as the settlers called it, “Bay of Disillusionment,”), where the road dead ends and the parkland begins. Then I turned around and went as far North along the Tasman Sea as I felt I could: to Bruce Bay (not nearly as far as I thought I would get!). The landscape is similar to the less inhabited parts of Hawaii—but also quite different since it’s so much farther away from the equator.

and now on to the photos!

Lake Hawaea, just east of Wanaka and its namesake lake

Toward Haast Pass—the most southern route over the Southern Alps

Fantail Falls—these powered a compressor for the machinery needed to build the road over Haast Pass

Where I'd hang out if I were a trout

Just over the pass

Named in a moment of exasperation, I thinkShetland pony by the beach

Down the road from the campsiteThe beachDown the road to find a campsite

The campgrounds near midnight