I attended the second edition of the Slovene Cheese Festival 2019 last Tuesday, 1 October, at the Brdo Congress Centre in Kranj. Naturally, I was rather cheese pleased, having had a total of 84 different cheeses laid out before my eyes. For the sake of my belly's contentment, I had to make an effort to not try all that was in sight, as cheese overload is a hard one to digest.
So I went about selecting the most eye-catching and curious cheeses from among 33 enticing cheese displays (each cheesemaker could exhibit as many as three cheeses). The 33 cheesemakers present at the festival consisted mainly of boutique dairies, except for Slovenia's three large producers: Pomurske Mlekarne, Mlekarna Planina, and Mlekarna Celeia.
A lot of the boutique cheesemakers that I spoke to emphasised that they don't feed silage to their animals. Silage is a type of fodder produced from green foliage crops that have been preserved by acidification, which is achieved through fermentation. The milk or cheese produced by animals fed on silage is known to have a different taste that is not as pleasant as that produced from animals that feed on pasture.
Many boutique cheemakers in Slovenia are proud to say that their animals feed on pasture rather than silage (Photo: Denise Rejec)
I tasted a variety of cheeses ranging from fresh to aged, and soft to hard cheeses, some with mould, and others seasoned. Here are some cheeses that really stood out:
- Ekološka Kmetija Planko & Kleh’s fresh goat cheese
- Sirarstvo Orešnik’s eco-ripened soft goat cheese with thyme, and goat and sheep cheese with blue mould which they've named Patricija
- Pustotnik’s Sir Kozovč—a semi-hard cheese made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk
- Kmetija Žerjal's Tropinc—a hard goat cheese immersed in a container filled with Teran grape skins and left there to acquire their aroma and flavour, which is then removed and then aged for one year. I also liked this cheesemaker's Gmajnar—a goat cheese with Karst herbs, and Brin—goat cheese infused with juniper.
Kmetija Žerjal's Tropinc has a Teran grape aroma and flavour
Chef Jože Godec of Resje restaurant in Bohinj delighted festival-goers with seven different cheese-based finger foods. These included baked potato with the very particular cheese from Bohinj known as Mohant, cheese burgers, ravioli stuffed with skuta, and buckwheat pancake with goat cheese mousse and buckwheat popcorn.
Buckwheat pancake with goat cheese mousse and buckwheat popcorn prepared by Jože Godec of Resje restaurant (Photo: Denise Rejec)
Here's something that I'd never tried before: a cheese and chocolate combo. Kmetija Podpečan had trayfulls of chocolate-covered cheese cubes, some with chilli on top, others with seeds. These proved to be a hit with chocolate and cheese lovers, but I still think I prefer to eat the two separately. In my opinion, chocolate is too good to eat with cheese, and vice versa.
One Success after Another
Last year's Slovene Cheese Festival was the very first of its kind in Slovenia. The Association of Rural Cheesemakers of Slovenia (ZKSS) organised the event to commemorate the 20th anniversary since its inception. Originally, the ZKSS thought up the festival as a one-time event to celebrate the occasion. However, due to last year's success, the association has established it as a yearly event.
Sirarstvo Orešnik’s eco-ripened soft goat cheese with thyme, and goat and sheep cheese with blue mould (Photo: Denise Rejec)
Strength in Numbers
Some 20 years ago, a group of farmers and dairy producers decided to join forces and form the cheese association (ZKSS). Slovenia back then didn't have the small private cheesemaking dairies that it has today, having only major corporations doing mass production. So cheesemakers felt that they had to come together as an association to develop the cheese aspect of Slovenia's gastronomy.
Since its inception, the association has been based at KGZS – Ptuj Institute. Its 118 members are from all over Slovenia and are active in the field of education, promotion of cheesemaking on farms, and raising the quality of products. The association is an active member of the Farmhouse and Artisan Cheese and Dairy Producer’s European Network (FACE).
Irena Orešnik (member of the FACE management board) and her husband Dejan of Sirarstvo Orešnik (Photo: Denise Rejec)
Mark Your Diary
The Slovene Cheese Festival is taking place on the same day, every year. So all you cheese lovers out there, be sure to mark October 1, 2020, in your diaries. At the third edition, you will definitely come across a few cheeses that you've never had the opportunity to taste. Till then, all we can say is “More cheese, please!”
You can find a more in-depth feature about the Slovene Cheese Festival 2019 on Wine Dine Slovenia.
The two Slovene Rural Cheesemakers Association mascots: “See you next year!” (Photo: Denise Rejec)