Healthy, tasty and sustainable: discovering the Milk and Cheese Road in Saxony-Anhalt

The cheese specialities in the ripening room at the Glinder Ziegenhof ©Glinder Ziegenhof

Did you know that Germany is home to a road which leads to milk and cheese? Farms and cheese dairies in Germany have joined together to form the "Milk and Cheese Road” (Milch- und Käsestraße) – a road which also runs straight through Saxony-Anhalt. Connoisseurs aren’t only able to buy and taste delicious cheese all the way from the Altmark to the Harz, they can also gain an insight into traditional craftsmanship and experience just how enjoyable, healthy and sustainable the produce from the farms in Saxony-Anhalt is.

The Milk and Cheese Road is no conventional, straight road. It actually encompasses a network of paths which connects farms, cheese dairies and village dairies in Germany. The "Milk and Cheese Road" is a virtual ribbon which brings together some 700 organic farms, cheese dairies and village dairies throughout Germany. All are united in the "Verband für handwerkliche Milchverarbeitung im ökologischen Landbau e. V." (the Association of Artisans for Milk Processing in Organic Farming), which is based in Freising. Saxony-Anhalt is now home to twelve stopping points on the road. Here, those interested are able to try out and buy farm cheese specialities and farm milk products, get to know the people and animals, visit the farm cheese dairies, take part in show cheese dairies and "farm cheese schools", and learn all kinds of interesting things about traditional cheese-making. On a round trip from the Altmark to the Magdeburg Börde, from the Harz National Park to the Dübener Heide Nature Park, from the Fiener Bruch to the Karower Platte, the farm and village cheese dairies in Saxony-Anhalt are easy to recognise due to their green logo: the farm sign which says "Milch- und Käsestraße Sachsen-Anhalt". On an interactive map of Germany provided by the Association of Artisans for Milk Processing (VHM), it only takes a few clicks to see which farms, milk producers and village dairies in Saxony-Anhalt are members, and which produce home-made as well as traditional farm cheese and farm dairy products on their farms – and which therefore belong to this special "Road".

So it's just cheese? On the contrary! There’s much more than just cheese. According to the association, farm cheese from Saxony-Anhalt is very special. The cheeses are made on farms according to traditional recipes – just as you would expect. The most important ingredient, natural milk, is provided by cows, goats and sheep. Freshly milked milk is processed on the spot into creamy farm yoghurt, fresh butter, ice cream and even spicy cheese. And it all takes place according to the flavour which is particularly sought after in the region.

Cheese cum Laude – specialities from Lindau are known far beyond the region

The tasty treats that people like to feel melting on their tongue can be experienced at the "Schafmilchkäserei JAARE” (sheep's milk cheese dairy) in Lindau, a district in the town of Zerbst, for example. The name of the sheep's milk cheese dairy consists of the initial letters of the five members of the de Vries family: JAARE – that’s son Joris, sheep expert Arnold, farm cheese maker Anett, son Rik and daughter Esther. In their farm cheese dairy on the edge of the Fläming Nature Park, the family processes the gourmet milk from their 250 "Laucaune" sheep by hand into yoghurt and speciality gourmet cheeses – from cream cheese balls with garden herbs through to the popular "Pecorino". Professional cheese maker Anett de Vries and her husband Arnold, who comes from the Netherlands, came to farm sheep via a few "detours". “We bought our first sheep 13 years ago, which was followed by the idea of making our own sheep's cheese," recalls Anett de Vries.  A year after buying their first sheep, they converted an old workshop into a cheese dairy and set up the farm shop. Today, the "JAARE specialities" are known far beyond the region, and many of the more than 20 products have won awards. "We need 20 litres of sheep's milk for a four kilo loaf of cheese ," explains Anett de Vries. The animals are milked mechanically, the milk flows through pipes from the cooling tank directly to the small cheese dairy, where the milk is processed by hand into gourmet cheese delicacies, which are then nurtured in the ripening rooms. A particular culinary attraction is the creamy sheep's milk ice cream. The same applies to the semi-hard cheese "Red Pepper" and the hard cheese "JAARE Pecorino", for which the sheep's milk cheese dairy from Saxony-Anhalt was awarded the "Käse cum Laude” (Cheese cum Laude) accolade by the VHM this year.

All the farm cheeses in Glinde are made from 100 percent goat's milk

Any amount of farm cheese – from the fresh "Kräutertaler" (herb valley cheese) to the piquantly spicy "Glinder Spezial" (Glinder special) to the mature "Ziegenschnitt mit Bockshornklee" (goat's cut with fenugreek) – is also available at the "Glinder Ziegenhof” (Glinde goats’ dairy) in the Elbe village of Glinde, near the capital of Saxony-Anhalt Magdeburg, on a rectangular estate which has been owned by the Kutschbach family since 1905. The "Elbröwer" provides proof that the quality is excellent. The soft cheese from Glinde has also been honoured by the VHM at the biggest survey of hand-made dairy products in Germany, and now officially ranks among the best hand-made cheeses, having been conferred the "Innovation Award". The jury, consisting both of experts in their field and consumers, was convinced by the "originality" of Glinder cheese. There’s also a lot more to the products, however. "All of our farm cheeses are made from 100 percent goat's milk and are therefore ideally suited to people who are allergic to cow's milk,” explains Gitte Kutschbach. The degree-educated farmer and her husband, a graduate agricultural engineer from the island of Rügen, are members of the "Verbund Ökohöfe” (Association of Eco Farms). They are convinced organic farmers and they farm beyond the guidelines of organic farming on their farm because "the animals are close to our hearts," as they say in unison. Gitte Kutschbach is in charge of the cheese dairy. She also offers "cheese seminars” at the dairy, which she says are very popular. "The participants learn to make their own cheese, which they can take home with them." Both "directors" nurture, feed and milk the goats of the 75 strong herd "with love". The result of all the hard work and the dairy goat herd in Glinde – which consists of rare Harz goats – is the finest farm cheese specialities. "The animals, formerly known as 'Harz miner cows', were considered more-or-less extinct until a few years ago," says Steffen Kutschbach. "We find them to be the ideal livestock, also because they are very hardy." The goats stay on the pastures along the Elbe throughout the summer, and are also milked here. From the raw milk, a complete range of goat's cheese is handmade in the farm's own cheese dairy – and only with lactic acid bacteria, natural rennet, sea salt and fresh herbs. "You have to try all of them out for yourself," says Steffen Kutschbach. "You can taste the local region in our products. You certainly won't find meadows and land with such lush pastures and the special wort that we have here everywhere.”

The current dates for farm tours and farm festival are available on the association website and the websites of the individual farms. www.hofkaese.de; www.hofmolkereiprodukte.de

Farms on the "Milk and Cheese Road, Saxony-Anhalt":

Author: Manuela Bock

previous article