Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Seltzer Goat Farm

We love visiting goat farms. I'm not really sure where it comes from except for the fact that we all love animals, and two of us especially love cheese. I have written about the delightful Har HaRuach Goat Farm and Shvil Izim previously. A recent outing took us to Shai Seltzer's Goat Farm, down the eastern slope of Mount Eitan by the Sataf Springs.
The road to the farm begins at the car park at the entrance to the Sataf Nature Reserve. It was particularly long and windy, and at times we did wonder where we were going. Fortunately, every kilometre or so we spotted a tiny sign emblazoned with a goat, indicating that we had not yet lost our way.
At last we arrived at the farm. The 170 strong herd, comprised mostly of Anglo-Nubian and Zangabi goats, was there to greet us, along with a friendly horse and a couple of dogs. Founded as a goat farm in 1974, the Seltzer farm has been making cheese since the 1980's. Shai Seltzer, a former botanist, built the farm to enjoy the quiet life. A local monk gave him his first lesson in cheese-making and he has been raising goats and producing yoghurt and cheeses ever since. With his long white beard, which makes him look rather like a relative of Moses, he is known to be somewhat of a hermit, but is also considered one of the top cheese artisans in Israel. His goats have adapted to their lush, mountainous surroundings, producing high quality, fatty milk, and as a result, very interesting and very good cheese.
As we entered the farm we saw the goat pens built into the hillside and a number of old wooden outbuildings. We meandered up the hill past the goat sheds, stopping to stroke a few goats along the way, and came across a little cave that houses a bar with a refrigerated cheese display - the "shop". Another family was just finishing up their purchases. A young woman behind the bar explained the menu and allowed us to taste the different cheeses they had to offer that day. They had a half dozen or so - from the soft to the very hard. We decided what we would like on our platter - two different types of cheese, including a semi-hard variety covered in grape leaves to hold moisture, bread, yoghurt and sun-dried tomatoes - plus a small bottle of wine. It seemed a little expensive for a cheese lunch, but when we sat down at our table in another cave like area, we were soon convinced it was worth every shekel. Each morsel of cheese, aged in a dark cave, was full of flavour; nutty, creamy, pungent, semi-sweet, sweet, earthy.
You won’t find Shai Seltzer's cheese in delicatessens around Israel. Except for supplying a few high-end restaurants, the Seltzers have no interest in commercialising their products. You can only get them on the farm. It has therefore become a firm fixture on the circuit for foodies and professional chefs alike. Training programs and seminars on goat farming and cheese making are offered, as well as tasting exhibitions and special culinary events. Volunteers are also welcome to join the work.
Quite off the beaten track, Shai Seltzer’s goat farm is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and, as we discovered, lunch there and a visit with the goats is the perfect way to spend time with the family. Especially a family that loves animals and cheese.
Credit for this photo: Gadi Isaacs


Miss Val's Creations said...

The goats are adorable! I LOVE goat cheese. It is always a pleasure to get some fresh at a farm.

TexWisGirl said...

so very cute. they all look friendly and curious.

Quinn said...

Going a long way to look at goats makes perfect sense to me...the cheeses would be a lovely bonus! ;)

VeggieMummy said...

Sadly, goats' cheese is the one thing I don't like to eat - it tastes like a goat smells to me! The only type I have managed to tolerate was a blue variety where the blueness overpowered the goat. I do like goats though and you trip and picnic sound lovely. Have a great weekend. xx