Boutique cheesemaking thriving in israel touchpoint israel gas tax rates by state

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As with other gourmet food and drink industries in Israel, there has been much interest in boutique cheeses as of late. An influx of French immigrants, as well as an increase in Israeli culinary travel to European countries, has created the demand.

One such immigrant, who came to Israel from the French Alps 12 years ago and spends her free time manning the counter at HaTzarfatia B’Havat Kish (The French Woman in the Kish Village Farm), selling specialty cheeses from five area dairies. Ducks, turkeys, and peacocks live in expansive cages across the walkway.

On Naot Goat Farm, a small but cozy five-cabin tzimmer (bed-and-breakfast), Gadi and Leah Nechimov and their six children turned this uncharted territory into a farm and cheese shop. Naot is just one of 24 similar farms that make up Israel’s modern desert cheese, agriculture and wine hospitality route in the Negev highlands of the South, along the ancient Nabatean spice route.

The farm’s goat milk is used to produce rich yogurt and labane, Balkan-style fresh cheeses such as feta and halumi, aged French-style cheeses such as tomme, and “Nitzan” – a hard cheese aged five months and flavored with wine, thyme, nigella seed or black pepper.

Among her award-winning cheeses are those made from sheep’s milk: Ma’ayan Harod (a tomme-style hard cheese), Ein Muda (a hard Pecorino-style cheese), Inbar (a spicy, semi-hard cheese inspired by Mutschli Swiss cheese, spiced with Swiss herbs, wine or seeds like caraway or cumin) and Kmehim (a semi-hard cheese infused with slices of black truffles soaked in truffle oil, matured over five to eight weeks).

At the dairy’s new visitors’ center, guests can witness the cheese-making and ripening process, taste and buy the farm’s 19-plus varieties of Swiss, French and Italian-inspired cheeses, watch a video about the farm, and even take cheese-making workshops. Together with Lotem Winery, they sell other gourmet goods, like locally made olive oil and jam.

Boutique goat cheeses were introduced to Israel by Shai Seltzer, who represents the modern era in Israeli artisan cheese-making dating to the early 1980s. Seltzer started aging his European-style cheeses in ancient natural caves on his Har Eitan farm in the Judean hills near Jerusalem. Today, chefs from around the world make his remote hideaway a must-visit when they come to Israel.

Cow’s milk cheese production began with the first European pioneers in the late 1800s. They worked Israel’s rough landscape to establish agricultural communities (kibbutzim), eating what they could grow and produce themselves or buy cheaply from their neighbors.

To accommodate their simple and communal lifestyle, it made sense to eat fresh cheeses that were low-maintenance and fast to produce, such as the variety Israelis call “white cheese” (gvina levana), a cross between spreadable cheese and yogurt that originated in Germany, as well as cottage cheese and sour cream. To this day, cottage cheese and white cheese are staples in the Israeli diet.

Boutique cheese-making in the Old City of Safed (Tzfat) dates back to 1840, the year HaMeiri Dairy was established in the home of Persian immigrant Meir Arzoni (later changed to HaMeiri). The dairy introduced indigenous cheeses such as brined, salty Tzfatit (named after the city) and feta-like Bulgarian cheese.

Yet another beautiful cheese farm close by is Ein Camonim (literally, “there’s nothing like them”). The destination tasting shop and restaurant started by Drora and Amiram Ovrutski sits on land overlooking the pine tree-packed hills in a remote mountain pass of the northern Galilee.