Award-winning, family-run dairy operation and cheese producer
Meyer Cheese is a boutique cheesery producing a range of delicious world class Goudas, handmade in the traditional style with milk from their own dairy farm in Hamilton and honoured with years of prestigious cheese awards.
This curd-filled business story began in a tiny village in the South of the Netherlands. Inspired after visiting a monastery in Postel where monks were producing handmade cheese, Meyer Cheese founders Ben and Fieke Meyer began making cheese themselves and built a little cheese factory in the hayshed on Ben's parents' farm near Bladel. Ben worked as an electrical engineer and Fieke as a teacher, and at night after work they would travel to cheese farms to purchase second-hand equipment to carefully restore for the factory. All the work was done by hand, and every cent earned went into their cheese factory.
In July 1976, their first cheese was made - a young farmhouse Gouda. Less than a year later, 300 litres of milk was poured into the new vat and production began with several big wheels of Gouda.
Ben Meyer with some of the first Goudas he made back in Holland
While still working their day jobs, Ben and Fieke made cheese four evenings a week and sold it to locals from a small underground cellar in Ben's parents' farmhouse. Selling cheese from the farm had its challenges - Dutch customers have fond memories of the cosy cellar and bumping their heads on the low ceilings.
Ben's family was pleased when the new shop de Hooiberg Kaas Boerderij (Hay Mountain Cheese Farm), was built on the farm and customers no longer wandered through the busy farmhouse kitchen any time of day to get to the cellar.
With a growing family, the Meyers emigrated to New Zealand in 1984 with their small children Geert (4), Fieke (2) and baby Miel. They settled in the Waikato, the heart of the New Zealand dairy industry, and set up their cheese production. After struggling with the composition of Kiwi milk, which differs from that of the milk in the Netherlands, and without the support of their cheesemaking mentors at home, trial and error helped Ben and Fieke to begin producing their quality cheeses and eventually purchased their own farm to control milk supply - a key decision that has led to their award-winning cheese production today.
Fieke and Ben are now retired, but Meyer Gouda Cheese is now a fully-fledged family affair with the next generation at the helm. Youngest son Miel took over as the general manager in 2007, and was awarded as New Zealand's Cheesemaker of the Year in 2011 - that same year, he was joined by his older brother Geert who returned from the Netherlands to become head cheesemaker for Meyer Cheese. Miel again received the honour in 2015.
Meyer Cheese is no stranger to awards, as they strive for consistent quality and flavour which is reflected in their awards history. Testament to this is their yearly list of accolades from the New Zealand Cheese Awards for their individual flavours, as well as the coveted Supreme Cheese Award earned in 1994, 2012 and recently again in 2020. They are also proud to have earned the Cheese of the Decade Award, given by the New Zealand Small Cheesemakers Association, for consistent success over a 10 year period.
The recipe for making Gouda is very simple, but - like making wine - to create consistently good cheese requires skill and experience (as supply and circumstances change during the dairy season). Meyer makes their cheese the traditional way, a brine salted cheese with a natural rind, cured on wooden shelves where they are turned every day to create character and full-bodied flavour.
The range is extensive and caters to every cheese taste. Classics like Maasdam with its characteristic 'holes' and Smoked Gouda that is naturally smoked with its beautiful aroma are firm favourites, while Goats Milk Gouda and Sheeps Milk Gouda are alternatives from the cow's milk offerings of the rest of their range.
Young mild Gouda and Amsterdammer are ripened for four weeks, creating versatile cheeses that can be used in any dish or eaten on their own. Others are aged for longer - Tasty Gouda is aged for nine months, so while retaining its smooth and creamy texture it has a hint of the sharp bite and full-bodied flavour that aged Goudas are famous for. Vintage Gouda is aged even longer at 18 months to create a sharp, strong cheese with a crumbly Parmesan-like texture.
Flavoured options abound - from the popular award-winning Cumin, mild, sweet and nutty Fenugreek, to unique and flavourful Cumin & Cloves. Garlic & Chives is packed with strong flavours and is a family favourite on a grilled cheese sandwich, and Italian Herb brings to mind pizza herb blends and is an excellent cheese board choice while Cracked Pepper gives a kick with cracked whole black and white peppercorns.
Meyer Cheese can be purchased online on their website and at supermarkets nationwide - and come and see them at the Seriously Good Food Show in Tauranga, the 5th and 6th of September 2020 at Trustpower Arena Baypark.