La Petite France - handmade camembert & brie
La Petite France is an artisan cheese company based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN. Their camembert and brie cheeses are handmade from jersey milk and free of chemicals and additives. Their story describes the cheese making process and includes a video.
Phone +27 (0)33 343 3487 Mobile 082 951 8427 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Carlin Archer
Artisan Camembert and Brie
Artisan camembert and brie... the thought of it is enough to make one salivate. During our Real Food Trip across South Africa in early 2012 we visited La Petite France’s cheese making facilities in Hilton, KZN, to witness how these delicious cheeses are created from start to finish.
La Petite France describe their products as ‘artisan cheese’ because the process is a hands on, human centric one. Once the imported cultures are added to the 1000 litres of milk that arrives on their doorstep each morning, it is carefully stirred by hand. The whey is then manually drained off and once the milk has begun setting it is poured into cheese moulds to harden before resting in the ‘ripening room’. Each day the cheeses are turned by hand. No chemicals or artificial additives - which are often used in mass produced cheeses to fast-track the process - are added to their cheeses. From start to finish, this is a labour of love; far removed from the disconnected methods of industrial foods.
Made with Jersey milk
The milk used in making La Petite France's cheese comes from a Jersey herd located in the nearby Karkloof area. Jersey milk has a high butter fat content which is perfect for making camembert and brie. Some other benefits to using this milk include:
- Jersey milk has greater nutritional value compared to other milk: 15% to 20% more protein, 15% to 18% more calcium and higher levels of Vitamin B12
- Cheese makers get 25% more cheese from Jersey milk.
- It has a higher content of fat soluble vitamins - particularly vitamin A which is important for the promotion and maintenance of healthy growth and development.
Jersey milk varies with the seasons as the nutritional content of the grasses the animals feed on change. This also means the flavour of the cheese can vary slightly throughout the year.
Initially Leon and Geré used an animal based rennet in their products, but after receiving many requests from vegetarians who wanted to eat the cheeses, they experimented with plant-based alternatives. After three months of trial and error they eventually found one that worked just as well - there was no compromise on taste or quality.
Giving something back
Whey is one of the byproducts of producing cheese. To give back to the local community, La Petite France donate their whey to a local zulu pig farmer delivering this to him free of charge.
Geré shows us a camembert mid way through its ripening. Some people prefer their cheeses firm, and others very ripe and gooey!
The cheeses are all wrapped onsite in special paper that allows the cheese to breathe.
An entertaining summary of the life of a cheese accompanies each wheel.
Geré shows us the cheese moulds.
Leon and Geré outside the La Petite France HQ in Hilton, Pietermaritzburg.
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