Sheep Cheese

Sheep Cheese

“Cheese is like a baby: he goes to sleep, so
do you” – so says Giora Waisel, production manager of Kibbutz Nachshon Dairy.

In one of those
“only in Israel moments,” I found out that Giora, a smiling white haired
man in a clean room get up, is my husband’s cousin. A few times removed to
be sure, but nonetheless, mishpacha. Actually, I kind of knew this
when I went in search of the man behind this high-tech dairy. Each time my
husband and I drove past the kibbutz on our way to/from Jerusalem from our
home in Rehovot, we commented on the smelly sheep. “Those are my cousin’s
sheep,” Joel reminded me each time. Then one day I decided to meet the man
behind the smelly sheep. And so I descended on Giora’s spotless, stainless
steel high-tech dairy on Kibbutz Nachson.

The concept behind
the two-year old dairy, Giora explained, is to use only pure sheep milk,
and only from the local kibbutz herd. Their goal is to be the largest sheep
milk dairy in Israel. As it stands now, the dairy is somewhere between a
boutique dairy and an industrial dairy. The interesting, atypical cheeses
produced at Nachshon are boutique-like products, whereas the cleanliness,
order and name brand are characteristic of industrial dairies.

Sheep milk cheese
has more vitamins, proteins, and iron than does cheese from cow’s milk. Unlike
cow milk cheese, sheep and goat milk cheese do not cause allergic reactions.

Feta cheese in production

Ripening Camembert
We tasted the soft cheeses (13-24% fat) and
the hard cheeses. Jibni, a delicious local cheese produced by Arab
farmers, was not found on the shelves of retail stores, until Nachshon introduced
it to the chain stores. Nachshon’s Jibni has a refined and delicate taste.
Shephard’s Cheese is made using a Swiss technology. Giora
impressed upon me that each dairy has its own secret tastes: the recipes are
classic but each interpretation is unique. That knowledge must be kept secret.

Giora delights in
experimenting and creating “pilot cheeses”. Some succeed, some fail.

Nachshonit is a spreadable cream cheese
developed by the dairy — and there is no other like it in Israel. Ma-Tom,
a semi-hard cheese in the St. Tom style, has a relatively long shelf life.
Feta, a salty soft cheese, is the most widely sold cheese
in Israel. Yerushalmit, Nachshon’s interpretation of the gourmet cheese,
Camembert, has a long ripening period. We saw them in various stages of readiness
in the temperature-controlled room.

Secret recipe underway
We asked if Nachshon planned to export
the cheeses and Giora unhesitatingly answered with a postive no. Does Nachshon
plan to export the cheeses?, we asked. Giora answered with a postive no.
“Export is expensive, restrictive, and less profitable,” Giora explained.

And that means
we cannot arrange a virtual visit to taste Nachshon’s sheep cheese – you
will have to come to Israel!

Text by J. Isaacson. Photos
by M. Kaplan-Green.

tips Cheeses are kosher.

Vacation in Israel and visit sheep cheese farms.

  • Tel: 08-927-8838; 052-657821.
  • Location: Route 3 between Latrun and Hulda.

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