Study tours to German farmhouse cheese makers
There is increasing interest in farmhouse cheese making in the UK and Ireland and Jongia (UK) Ltd., a supplier of equipment and ingredients to the UK and Irish dairy industry, offers study tours to German dairies. These study tours offer existing and potential new businesses an opportunity to see equipment in action and to discuss cheese production and marketing with farmhouse producers.
The study tours are offered as intensive one or two day trip, depending on flights and and are planned to be low cost.
Study tours take place in the spring and autumn each year. Participants can select from 3- routes, each with a different accent for a different market. Many cheese makers have joined all of the trips, even a few coming twice! Participants have included seasoned cheese makers, novices and hobbyists.
Berlin area, 3 - 4 dairies, with the accent on fresh products, like drinking milk, yoghurt, curd cheese (quark) and soft cheese. Two of the dairies are organic (one bio-dynamic) and one is goat milk dairy. Depending on flights we can execute this as a day trip
Westpahlia (Dortmund area), 5 or more dairies. The accent is on Gouda/Edam type cheese and curd cheese (quark).
Bavaria/Austria border. 4 dairies with the accent on soft cheese and mountain cheese. The latter is an Edam type process with a red smear coating.
Our participants are always very enthusiastic after the trips, having not only seen new ways to solve problems they might have, but also having made new contacts and friends. All have indicated that the interactions with the other participants were an important part of each study tour.
Examples of technology and developments seen on study tours
The Westphalia trip visits exclusively cheese makers who are also farmers and run farm shops as well, while a few also run restaurants. These farmers are now entrepreneurs of the first degree and are eager to share their experience with us. Images of a dairy shop are given in plates 1-3 below.
Plate 1. Farm dairy shop at Thomashof in Burscheid
Plate 2. Interior of farm dairy shop at Thomashof in Burscheid
Plate 3. Cheese making facilities at Thomashof in Burscheid
It is an eye opener how these farmers run such businesses and everything of the highest quality. One of the farmers, although small, has a very energy efficient dairy, using a number of systems to reduce energy use. It is not difficult to implement and many cheese makers could reduce their costs by implementing a similar, relatively simple, system.
In Bavaria most of the dairies are small farmer owned co-operatives, processing about 5,000 litres per day. One of the interesting items on this trip is a cheese vat (plate 4) on a hydraulic lift, enabling the cheese maker to use the vat for a number of different products and without the need to have a gantry, saving space. The Food Centre in Wales has purchased such a system and have found it very useful.
The cheese vat with a plate heat exchanger, just behind on the wall, is shown in plate 4. A boiler is used to make hot water that exchanges heat with the water that
Plate 4.Tiltable cheese vat
circulates around the vat. When the vat has the right temperature the water in the jacket is removed and used for cleaning. Water from an ice bank is used for cooling and the waste heat from this unit is used to provide a supply of water at about 65°C.
More detailed images of a tiltable vat are given in plates 5 and 6.
Plate 5. Tiltable vat shown partly raised
Plate 6. Tiltable vat shown fully raised
Near Berlin the dairies are on farms and they supply mostly fresh products which are sold in nearby Berlin. The equipment includes a specialised organic soft cheese dairy, a dairy specialised in curd cheese (quark) and a dairy that bottles milk and also runs an Ecolean machine, for producing reduced environmental impact packaging. Curd cheese is not particular popular in the UK, but goat cheese makers making goat cheese rolls often make curd cheese, which they extrude in rolls. The systems using draining through a cloth are very labour intensive and difficult to clean. Many goat cheese makers in the UK have now the "quark" press as used by the Berlin dairies and are pleased with not only the ease of production, they have the opportunity to automate to some degree. Also there is about a 10% increase in yield; when pouring curd in the bags, dry matter is lost, and curd can also be lost due to adhesion to the cloth filter.
Everybody on the trip notes something else they can use in their dairy and by keeping the trips short and affordable we have been able to support a wide range of cheese makers and enthusiasts alike. For more information please visit Jongia (UK) Ltd . For information on forthcoming study tours please see the announcements forum and the calendar.