Sometimes I have the feeling that this little part of Germany I'm living in could become a really nice place for food lovers, if only a few things would change. The state (Bundesland) Jena is in, Thuringia, is called the green heart of Germany not without reason. Green fields, woods and slowly flowing rivers are all make up for a gentle and pretty landscape... at least once the snow's gone :-). It is also a fertile land with a long history for meat products (especially wurst, which deserves a post apart) and produce. Still, with the exception of maybe Bratwurst and asparagus, Thuringia, and part of the neighbouring Bundesländer which have a very similar landscape/economy, are not exactly famous for their gastronomic products. And here we come to the ifs I mentioned before. The effect of the socialist/materialist education people grew up with in the East still has a strong effect. Many still look for decent quality for low-low prices and are seldom ready to pay a more for something made with more care and consequently higher work-costs, especially when it comes to food. This means that few are ready to take the risk and venture into the quality food production business. So I decided I will post about the few local brave producers that decide to take the "hard path" to food quality whenever I discover one. I don't know if it will help these producers much, after all I'm not writing in German for a mainly German public, but a little is better than nothing. I'll start today with a local cheese maker: Riekehof Tultewitz.
This little farmhouse maker specialises in ewe milk cheese. It is actually almost a one man "show". The man making the cheese also travels to markets in the region selling his products (in Jena every Saturday). The milk comes from sheep raised on the farm and is used unpasturised to make all the different cheeses produced. The range covers quite a few different kinds, most of which are sold . Maybe the only criticism I can make is that the choice of the cheese names is not exactly full of fantasy. They're almost all named according to the cheese style they follow and even then sometimes the description is not always so precise. But that's only a minor point. After all the cheeses taste really good. That's all that counts I think. There's a Tomme de brebis and a mixed cow/ewe Bergkäse, respectively top right and left in the pic above. The tomme, still quite young, has a nice buttery texture and the typical slightly acidic and piquant notes of ewe's milk. The Bergkäse instead is somewhat riper, flakier cheese, although the aromas here are at the same time more powerful but also gentler, less piquant. One of my favourites.
A big part of the assortment is taken up by various so called flavoured Gouda-style cheeses : smoked, with nettles, garlic and basil and Bear's garlic leaves, just to name the first that come to mind. Last time I went for a new kind, with marigolds. If you've never tasted marigolds (yes, you can eat them) they tend to have a peppery taste: I was hoping to find the taste in the cheese ignoring the fact that the man selling the cheese kindly informed me of the contrary. Clearly he was right: the cheese, tasting nice nonetheless, had none of the marigold taste. It did look great though, with those orange petals inside.
There are a few other cheeses I haven't tried yet (plus an ewe's milk yogurt). But the real star of the production is the Tultewitzer Taler. This pure ewe's milk cheese is sold in three different stages of ripening: fresh, medium and ripe. In the opening pic you can see a ripe (left) and medium (right) cheese at the bottom. I'm not a great fan of the fresh cheese: it tastes nicely milky but it is a bit too bland for my liking. Still, it would be great to make sebadas, a Sardinian sweet. I'll have to try sometime. As it ripens the cheese acquires a stronger taste and a hard brittle texture. The ripe one, as you might have guessed, is my favourite. It's great on bread, for cooking and especially grated on pasta. Now sorry, I'll have to go. I made myself hungry :-).