Belgium's first Salon du Fromage, celebrating the country's raw-milk cheeses and dairy products, was held in Ciney at the end of May...
The first of its kind in Belgium, the Salon du Fromage et des Produits Laitiers, a fair for cheese and dairy products, was organized by the Ciney Provincial School of Agronomy and Sciences and the GAL (local action group) Saveurs et Patrimoine en Vrai Condroz and united 2,700 attendees, including dairy professionals, restaurateurs and the public.
Wallonia, the predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium, is known for its agriculture and livestock farming, and the event in Ciney, in the heart of the region, attracted numerous enthusiastic, dynamic producers, dairy experts and curious visitors. Held on May 29, the one-day event included many educational and fun activities as well as cheesemaking demonstrations and cheese and butter tastings.
A conference entitled "Raw-Milk Cheeses: A Heritage to Be Protected," held by two experts, offered an introduction to the fantastic world of raw milk. Piero Sardo, the president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, and Antoine Berodier, the former director of the Technical Center for Comtois Cheeses and now director of Typtech, used scientific evidence to make the case for the importance of protecting our dairy heritage, which also means protecting our freedom of choice and freedom of taste.
The Ciney Pôle Fromager (cheese centre) and the GAL worked incredibly hard to put together an event of the highest quality. The message that real cheese comes from a farm and is made with raw milk was emphasized again and again throughout the whole day.
Belgium's first Slow Food Presidium, for raw-milk Herve, made its public debut at the event. So far, two producers have joined the Presidium, and the challenge for the future will be raise more awareness among young people and encourage them to return to making this traditional cheese. Today, consumers only know Herve in its industrial version, and few are aware that this soft, washed-rind cheese is traditionally made from raw cow's milk. The cows graze throughout the summer and in the winter are given hay and grass from nearby meadows. Two days after the cheese is produced and given its first salting, the cheesemaker begins rubbing its rind with water three times a week. This helps bacterial flora (Brevibacterium linens) to develop on the rind, giving it its characteristic orange color.
Slow Food is currently thriving in Belgium, with more new Presidia about to be launched; they will be presented at the 2014 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre.
Follow our work! Discover Slow Cheese, Slow Food's campaign to protect artisanal cheese production...
Visit the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin from October 23 to 27.
Find Belgium and its new Presidia in the Oval, at the Biodiversity House.
Discovering Belgium's Slow Food Presidia
Find out about the exceptionally rare authentic Herve cheese, made with raw milk, and traditional Pays d'Herve syrup, made from apples and pears. Includes a tasting.