Midlands Food Hero – Grant Warren
The milk is often still warm from the cows when it is tipped into the huge vat where the cheese making process begins at Preston Farm. “I use the milk as fresh as possible to get the very best flavour” Grant tells me, adding “this also saves a lot of energy by not cooling and reheating the milk.” Grant treads as lightly as he possibly can on our planet – harvesting rainwater, turning cow manure into compost for his vegetables and growing all the grass his cows need to eat. The flavour of milk (and cheese) is affected by what the cows eat, so keeping them happy with plenty of their natural food – grass – all year round means that the cheeses that La Petite France hand-craft are a firm favourite in the Midlands.
Since the now famous Camembert was first created over 10 years ago using the secret recipe invented by Hubert Berbizer, Preston Farm has supplied the milk. It was a natural extension of Grant’s business to ‘add value’ to the raw product and make the cheese himself. He didn’t realise just how much he would love it. “It is such a wonderful process,” he says up to his elbows in curds and whey. “It is like bread making – transforming a simple ingredient into something extraordinary. It’s alive and very sensual.” Nothing artificial is added to the 4000 litres of milk turned into cheese each week – just salt, culture and vegetable rennet.
Growing up on this farm where his Dad kept just 20 cows and grew heaps of veggies, Grant was certain he wanted this lifestyle for his family too. His kids love milk and often the milk bottle in their fridge is empty! “My favourite afternoon is watching rugby with my boys with a slab of Hilton Blue, fresh apple, biltong and beer.” he laughs. The Hilton Blue tastes really special – a brown mould which is endemic to the midlands adds an interesting colour and nutty flavour. A Cheese Café is in the pipeline, where you too will be able to indulge in the apple, biltong and cheese combination, or a farm fresh salad topped with tangy feta. It will be situated in the middle of the farm and offer you the opportunity to personally thank the cows grazing in the pastures right beside you for sharing this bounty. www.lapetitefrance.co.za