The cheese of the month for January 2020 is: Frohsinn, from Hof Berg in Dannau, Schleswig-Holstein.

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Frohsinn, cheerfulness. Who’d not need a bit more of that?! This is my offering to you, as a guiding cheese for the year, so to say. Small, easy to handle, affordable, and with a distinctive character, yet balanced and relatively discreet. Not exactly widely available, but perhaps an incentive to go and look out for similar offerings from others, make a trip north, discover new places, people, cheeses.

As large, or small, as my hand, the soft cheese is made from raw cow’s milk at Hof Berg in Dannau. I don’t expect you to know that corner of northern Germany, but it’s beautiful, marvellously quiet, in so-called Holstein Switzerland, just 15 kilometres from the Baltic Sea. Hof Berg is Schleswig-Holstein’s oldest Bioland-certified farm, having been started in 1979 by Birgitta and Albert Teschemacher, and based on a very healthy mix of idealism and realism. After 30 years it was passed on, very successfully, to the next generation: since 2009 René Kohler is looking after it together with the Teschemacher’s son Falk. The latter is in charge of the 75-strong herd of black and white Holstein and German lowland cattle as well as 150 hectares of pastures and fields. René Kohler originates from (real) Switzerland, trained at Hof Berg and returned as a fully formed agricultural engineer. He’s responsible for the processing of the milk and for sales. Besides the small, washed-rind Frohsinn there are several kinds of hard cheeses, a white bloomy rind cheese, fresh ones as well as gorgeous quark.

However, for me the Frohsinn in particular confers the quiet resolution reigning high at Hof Berg. Without any agitation and yet very focussed and fully convinced. It’s made exclusively from morning milk, because the evening’s milk is cold-stored overnight, making the calcium a little lazy – good timing is part of the game if you want to guide your milk to the best possible next state of being. The washed rind cultures come with a lovely bit of sandy crunch, are tamed by the merest idea of white bloom, the paste starting milky, then leading – quietly – into something earthy and ever so slightly bitter (just like life itself). It’s sold at about four weeks, with about as many weeks aging potential, for which you should unwrap it from its original packaging and use waxed paper instead.

So don’t let anything and anybody drag you down this year – eat more cheerful cheese!

PS Hof Berg cheeses are on offer at about 15 regional farmers markets, and on Friday afternoons at the farm itself – where you can also book a beautiful, cosy cottage.

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