The goats may be cranky around the Marlborough Sounds, but they’re turning out some incredible flavours that are delighting palates in restaurants and cafes around the country.
It’s taken six years of hard work and super early starts, seven days a week, for nine months of the year, but Cranky Goat Cheeses have now carved out a special niche in New Zealand’s burgeoning cheese market.
British-born owners Simon and Hellene Lamb stumbled upon the cheese making business when they settled near the beginning of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The switch to cheesemonger was a far cry from Simon’s 38-plus year career in the Airforce, but his passion for making cheese is now paying off for the pair. Simon was part of Britain’s prestigious Royal Airforce Regiment and spent 32 years in the Royal Airforce, many of them as an instructor, in the United Kingdom. The Lambs moved to New Zealand in 2006 where Simon joined the Royal New Zealand Airforce and in 2013 he left the military to pursue his passion for making cheese.
The Lambs started out making a small variety of feta and halloumi goat’s cheeses to sell in the Nelson and Marlborough region, but their cheeses rapidly rose to stardom with demand growing from much further afield. “Within a few years we were selling a large variety of goat’s cheeses all over New Zealand,” says Hellene.
They pride themselves on fresh, rising early each morning to retrieve their daily quota of fresh goat’s milk from their wonderful neighbouring farmers, Jackie and Andrew Leslie. “They work incredibly hard with a lot of aroha and passion for their goats to provide us with high quality milk that we produce our cheese from seven days a week within an hour of milking,” says Hellene. This means they can keep their cheeses fresh and flavoursome. “The guys finish milking at 7.30am and it’s in our pasteuriser by 7.45am. We are literally right next door.”
“The first year we used 60 litres of milk a day and just supplied local Farmers Markets, but we’re now using 500 litres a day and supplying businesses all over New Zealand,” she says. “We have a lot of interactions with chefs, delis and cafes. They’re often touring around New Zealand and tasting our cheeses and ask if we can tailor make varieties just for them,” she says. “Chefs really seem to like it and we’re in a lot of top restaurants now.” These include Rata, Bistro Gentil, Moiety, O’Connell Street Bistro, Shepherd, Bellamy’s Logan Brown and Capitol Restaurant.
Simon and Hellene go out of their way to create cheeses unique to New Zealand, specifically collaborating with local likeminded businesses, such as Lake Chalice Wines. Together they create Cullensville Gold, a beautiful wash rind that has been smear ripened in Sauvignon Blanc every second day for two weeks. Another of these well-known cheeses is the Lynton Noir, a delicious white rind with a sweet but savoury layer of Murphy’s Garlic Black Garlic. “We don’t do brie or camembert but we do a great Pelorus Pearl, Nag, and an ash-covered, white rind Reginald, which is named after my grandfather,” says Hellene.
There’s a strong French influence in Cranky Goat’s cheeses and the Lambs produce lot of soft goat’s cheeses, including a smoked version which they cold smoke with apple wood, producing an amazing flavour. “Chefs use that a lot to whip up in desserts or serve it with the likes of beetroot coulis, and we’ve had some really great feedback,” says Hellene.
Cranky Goat is not certified organic but together with the Leslies they go all out to be as close to organic as possible, with no chemicals used.