Artisan Cheese Award Winner

NZ Cheese Award winner
NZ Cheese Making

Turning a hobby that you are passionate about into an award winner is a dream many of us have had and is exactly what Leanne Havill has achieved.

Announced in April 2024, Leanne won a Silver Medal in The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2023 for her ‘Leanneta Style’ Fresh Unripened Cheese under the ‘Curds and Whey Amateur category’.

Leanne shares “I have been making cheeses at home for about five years after taking cheese-making classes at Wellington High School, and since then have made close to 200 cheeses, with workmates and family giving their critiques on all.  My first cheese was a cow feta which has always been the most popular and the one that won the silver medal in the competition.  It is salty, cheesey and fairly creamy.

I use commercial milk and try to use premium milk for aged cheeses because so much effort goes into each cheese, that I think I should use the best milk I can afford.  I would love a house with a cheese cave that would enable the cheese to mature at home rather than a facility.

Cheese making is not economical, but it is a slow process, which cannot be hurried, and it is a nice mind-calming hobby; I am a nurse by profession.  Affinage takes patience and pretty careful management of conditions, sometimes for months or years.   When you see the effort and amount of milk that goes into a piece of cheese, then you really appreciate the cheeses in The Cheese Wheel box each month.   Over the years I have made most styles of cheese including a Shropshire Blue, Red Leicester, Wensleydale (the Wallace and Gromit cheese), Camembert, Jarlsberg, and my medal winner, Leanneta.   It is very difficult to have cheeses at their best and ready at the right time for a competition so I am full of admiration for The Cheese Wheel suppliers, who manage this each month, taking into account their milk source, seasonal qualities and milk volume available.

I can really recommend making your own halloumi, ricotta, feta and Belper Knolle if you want to dabble in cheese making, but don’t believe anyone who says mozzarella is easy.   I’ve put lots of milk down the drain trying to make mozzarella!  There are some good cheese groups, and YouTube resources, and I began with Gavin Webber‘s tutorials.  My favourite cheese we have had in our Cheese Wheel box, beside all the aged cheeses, was the marinated cheese from Clevedon Buffalo Co.  It’s amazing.  Thank you so much to all the cheesemakers who we love to support”.

Well, thank you Leanne and looking forward to featuring you in one of our Cheese Boxes perhaps one day!

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