World Cheese Day: How these artisanal cheesemakers in India are handcrafting creamy cheese differently
Cheddar crusted with a spicy molagapodi, authentic Italian cheese in Tamil Nadu and Swiss cheese infused with Himalayan pink salt. As the world celebrates International Cheese Day on June 4, artisanal cheesemakers from all around the country tell us what got them to make cheese and their most unique flavours.
Gouda on you
Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu has been popular for making some of the finest cheese in the country. With the Kodai Cheese Factory being among the most popular ones, Caroselle Cheese has also emerged over the years. Founded by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet in the 1990s, it is currently run by three women — Patricia Heidt, Patti Anne Tower and Dutch cheesemaker Hanneke Tubben Kroon, who has been handcrafting cheese for them for the last decade. While they have shifted their cheese factory to Trichy, they have an interesting free Cheese Tasting program at their Pethuparai facility in Kodaikanal, which sees many people visit every day. While there is a huge demand for Parmesan from Caroselle Cheese, it is the classic Dutch Gouda cheese with peppercorns, which is also the most popular cheese as it appeals to the Indian palate. Rs 250 onwards for 200 gms.
What started out as a hobby for Mumbai-based Mausam Narang in 2012, soon turned into Eleftheria Cheese in June 2015. Four years later, she is successfully supplying to over 50 restaurants in Mumbai and Pune. With nine types of cheese, including the likes of halloumi and Mozzarella, Mausam’s focus is all about chemical and preservation-free vegetarian cheese created by an all-women staff. However, the first-generation cheesemaker swears by her handmade burrata and Belper Knolle. While the Italian burrata is nice and creamy, Mausam’s version of the Swiss semi-aged cheese is a work of wonder! It is infused with crushed garlic, Himalayan pink salt and enrobed in ground black pepper, lending it a delicious flavour. What to expect in the future? An infusion of local herbs, which will definitely put Indian artisanal cheese on the global map. Rs 300 onwards for 150 gms.
When you talk about cheese, it is hard not to talk about the variety of Italian cheese. Luckily, while India is constantly experimenting in the artisanal cheese space, we have Massimo Bovi, an Italian in our midst who makes cheese in the most authentic fashion. A stickler for precision in process, the 54-year-old cheesemaker first came to India in 1995 but permanently moved to Auroville in 2003 along with his family make authentic cheese for the locals with the help of goat’s milk. However, after a few setbacks, and the unavailability of the animals, he is currently refurbishing his entire setup to be able to make the granular Italian signature of Parmesan cheese, his most favourite type from the land, made from goat’s milk. Rs 250 onwards for 200 gms.
Ode to Chennai
After first learning to make cheese during a vacation in Coonoor, Namrata Sundaresan decided to start Käse with close friend Anuradha Krishnamoorthy in Chennai in 2015. However, it was Karen Anand’s Farmer’s Market in 2016, which got them to pursue it even more. Tying up with ethical dairy owners and a farm-to-table approach, they also have a team with specially-abled people to handcraft cheese. While Mozzarella and Cheddar are some of their most popular cheeses, they have a uniquely delicious Cheddar crusted with a spicy molagapodi. Interestingly, that isn’t the only one as they also have infused flavours like the Spanish Manchego, which is crusted with coffee, cacao, and peppercorns! Rs 300 onwards for 150 gms.
Bengaluru’s Father KL Michael in KR Puram is synonymous with the artisanal cheesemaking culture in the city for the longest time. However, Chef Manu Chandra of Toast and Tonic is giving city-dwellers another reason to fall in love with cheese with his newest venture— Begum Victoria Cheese. Collaborating with city-based fromagers Pooja Reddy and Shruti Golchha, the three-month-old brand currently makes four kinds of cheese — Havarti, Bel-paese, Fontina, Cheddar and Brie. While they are all unique in their flavour, it is the Bel-paese, which stands out as it has an orange rind, which is their own twist to the classic semi-soft cheese. Taking their love for cheese to the restaurant, Toast and Tonic is currently serving a delectable cheese platter with unique accompaniments on offer in the city. Rs 370-Rs 450 plus taxes for 200 gms.
Thrissur-based Casaro Creamery is only seven months old but they are already ready to make the plunge into hard cheeses. Started by cousins Anu Joseph and Freddy George, the idea first struck Anu when she couldn’t find fresh mascarpone cheese to make tiramisu. After taking a few cheesemaking courses and workshops in the US, she realised the true potential. Seeing a large demand for cheese in Kochi, the duo started making cow milk-based halloumi, ricotta, mascarpone, feta in varying temperatures. Interestingly, they take the classic French-Belgium Fromage Blanc and make the white cheese their own with minced garlic and fresh parsley. `250 onwards for 200 gms.
A little away from Chennai on Old Mahabalipuram Road is The Farm, which functions as a dairy, a restaurant and a shop run by Arul Futnani, a first-generation cheesemaker. While The Farm was started in 1974 by his parents, Arul started making artisanal cheese only in 2014 and likes to call it ‘Farmstead artisanal cheese’ because it is all made from in-house cow and buffalo milk. Making nine different kinds of cheeses, some of the popular ones are Ricotta, Labneh, Feta, Bocconcini and Tomme, the latter of which has a very own Indian version! Named after their location, the Swiss cheese is named Tomme de Semmancheri, and has a typical flavour which is buttery because of the milk used in the process. `1,800 onwards for one kilo.