For the first time I was invited to assist in the judging of the 2016 SA Dairy Championships, 72 judges evaluating 895 dairy products entered by 85 producers, both record numbers. A total of 23 products received a Qualité Award, and one of these was named as the South African Dairy Product of the Year 2016, namely Dalewood Fromage Huguenot 12 months matured.
We were welcomed by MC Bennie Howard, and then entertained by a band doing Queen, far too loud for most present. Thankfully they did not return to the stage once done. It was very cold in the Market Hall at Grand West, but our hostess Hlubie got it turned down, and assisted me in setting up the wifi. Parking had been a nightmare, a public holiday clearly being a favorite of the gamblers. ‘Mr Cheese’ Kobus Mulder, the organizer of the judging and my table neighbour, told me that 500 guests had been invited, consisting of a mix of judges, sponsors, as well as of representatives of the cheese producers, and some media. Kobus is the only local dairy judge that is also an international judge. Agri-Expo has existed for 185 years. The record number of producers and dairy products entered this year is a demonstration of the commitment of the dairy industry to enhancing its quality, and to enhance the marketability of its brands.
Melt Loubser of the South African Milk Producers’ Association said that Agri-Expo adds eminence and prominence to the dairy industry, for example via the Cheese Festival, which runs from Saturday – Monday this weekend. He added that the judges had fed back that the brands entered reflected the world class nature of our dairy industry. We sang the National Anthem for Freedom Day, most very badly for the ethnic section, and most being fluent in the Afrikaans section. Then Grace was said, always odd for such functions.
Lighting was very low, so not good for photography, and the food was average. The starter was a homemade spring roll filled with duck, ginger (not tasted), and julienne vegetables, served with a salad of sprouts, red peppers, to which a coriander drizzle and sesame Indonesian soy had been added. The main course was beef fillet and a braised oxtail phyllo parcel with horseradish mash, caramelized onions, and tarragon jus.
Winners in 97 classes of dairy products were called up to receive certificates, and the comedian magician Matt Gore, or Ginger the Ninja, put on an entertaining and clever show to add light relief.
Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo, said that the dairy industry has been part of Agri-Expo for many years, it being one of the foundations of Agri-Expo. They had introduced the Qualité mark of quality for the winning dairy products, thereby enhancing the dairy industry. In 1992 they introduced a roll of honour, recognizing exceptional contributions to the dairy industry, and had only added members three times, one of them being Kobus Mulder. Kobus has been involved in judging the dairy championships for 50 years. Mr Ehlers announced the addition of Riana Belcher of Bellori Boutique Cheesery in Bapsfontein as the new addition to the roll of honour. She was described as an entrepreneur, a person who can mobilize the industry, who ‘is a phenomenal cheese maker‘, and who has won 40 and 10 international cheese awards.
# Parmalat Bonnievale for its Woolworths unsalted butter
#. Roe-mhy Goats Dairy for its goat’s milk butter
# Woodlands Dairy for its Spar Salted butter
# Fair Cape Dairies, for its Woolworths Quarter Mousse and its Chocolate Mousse
# Parmalat Parow for its Woolworths soft scoop vanilla and berry ice cream
#. Dairy Exchange for its low fat plain yoghurt, for its fruit salad yoghurt, and for its black cherry low fat yogurt.
# Lancewood haloumi
# La Montanara halloumi
#. Mezze Foods halloumi
#. Rhodes Fruit Farms for its Fior Di Latte mozzarella with olives and thyme
# Parmalat Ladismith Round Gouda, Woolworths matured Gouda 12 months, and Woolworths Gouda 24 months matured.
# Dalewood Fromage Huguenot 12 months matured, and Huguenot 6 months matured.
# Fairview Woolworths de Leeuwenhoek, Chevin, Woolworths Crottin, and Woolworths Botham’s Cremezala Blue.
#. Bellori Boutique Cheesery Benedictus
Dessert was an intricate sounding study of chocolate, described as roasted white chocolate Crème Brûlée with salted caramel, infused berries, Italian meringue, Brandy snap biscuit, and an added (unwrapped) Ferrero Rocher. A board with pieces of the winning cheeses followed, with biscuits and grapes. Veritas award-winning wines were supplied for each course.
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said it was a privilege to attend the Awards evening, to honour the winners, and to motivate the dairy sector to pull the agricultural economy forward. While the Western Cape has 14 % of the South African economy, it experienced a 30% job growth rate. So too the province has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, of less than 20%. Minister Winde said that the Western Cape employs 70% of the agricultural jobs in our country. Agri-processing has led to a job growth of 8%, outperforming Tourism. He spoke of a R9 million testing facility which the dairy industry had requested, so that it could start exporting its products to international retailers in future. Minister Winde congratulated winners as well as the brands which entered, believing in competitiveness, in that it helps push boundaries. At this stage each of the judges who were present were called up to receive a medal from Minister Winde, for our judging input!
At the bitter end of the evening, the South African Dairy Product of the Year 2016 was announced as Dalewood Fromage Huguenot 12 months matured.
Disclosure: We received a complimentary mini tub of Marcel’s frozen yoghurt to take home.
POSTSCRIPT 28/4: The annual Cheese Festival takes place at Sandringham, off the N1 between Paarl and Stellenbosch from Saturday until Monday, from 10h00 until 18h00 each day. Visitors can taste artisanal and better-known cheeses, local and imported, and meet cheese makers. Nataniël, Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris, Marlene van der Westhuizen, Francois Ferreira, and SARIE food editor Herman Lensing will prepare dishes with cheeses, meat, and wine. The Western Cape Government Cape Made Kitchen will do food demonstrations with cheese, figs, persimmons, and pomegranates. A cheese and beer tasting is available, as are wine tastings by the Chenin Blanc Association and Shiraz SA. Tickets at R150 are available at Computicket, and at Shoprite and Checkers stores.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein