Learn and indulge at these cheese-making holidays
Cheese-making dates back at least 5,000 years, when nomadic herdsmen stored milk in vessels made from sheep’s or goats’ stomachs. Now, the process is somewhat more refined, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a go at some DIY cheese.
An organic cheese-making farm where ‘farm animals get priority’, Acres Wild in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India is a haven of well-nurtured nature. Run by the charming and hospitable Mansoor and Tina, the farm and its cottages are tucked on a hillside where you can bask in spectacular views of tea plantations, blue mountains and dense jungle. Keep your eyes peeled for wild birds and animals that compete for space with the farm’s dairy cattle. You can help to make bread, soap and jam, or get stuck in with milking cows, feeding the animals and planting the fields. But cheese-making courses are the real draw of a farm stay here, run by self-taught (and now expert) cheese maker Tina. The cheeses include Gouda, Monterey Jack, Ricotta and Gruyere. Leave with a detailed understanding of the art of making gourmet, artisan cheese.
In one weekend at Trevin Farms, you’ll make your own Mountain Chevre (a.k.a. goat’s) cheese and have it wrapped to take home. Set on 16 hectares of stunning meadows and woodland, Trevin Farm is part of the Green Hotels scheme for environmentally sound lodgings. Vegetables go from the garden to the stove to the plate. You can collect hen’s eggs, ride the draft horse or even milk the goats. After which it’s time to head into the kitchen to learn about making your own batch of goat’s cheese.
The list of things to bring to Somerset’s Hagley Bridge Farm includes clean wellington boots, but they’re not for the unpredictable English weather – they’re for wearing during the 100 percent interactive cheese-making course. Try your hand at delicious soft and hard cheeses, yoghurt and butter in the wonderful surroundings of a 16th-century farmhouse nestled in a valley. This course will teach you how to make a range of products from nothing more fancy than supermarket milk, but – for adventurous types who plan to take it a step further – you can also learn about keeping your own dairy animals.
Check out artisancheesemakingathome.com for friendly but expert advice on making anything from cheddars to blue cheeses, or cheesemaking.com for supplies and equipment.