Rami’s Israel Cheese Guide – Shavout Recommendations

Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Penetecost) is celebrated seven weeks after Passover)and is the third ancient agriculture holiday in the Jewish tradition. Shavuot celebrates the first fruits of the harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

The culinary tradition associated with Shavuot is the eating of dairy foods. There are many explanations (some religious and some agricultural) associated with this tradition but I will mention two of my favorites here: firstly, Shavuot falls at the season of the year with most milk production and secondly, the white clean color of milk is associated to the holy ceremony of the acceptance of the in Mount Sinai.

All the dairies in Israel (and on top of 3 huge ones and around 10 smaller ones there are about 100 of them in all) are preparing for Shavuot special events.

Here is a short list of some of the best dairies recommended by friends.

On route 40, several km south of Telalim junction (south of Beer Sheva), there are two family farms, Korenmal on the east side of the road and Naot on the east side. Both are goat farms rearing their own herd and producing fine cheese.

Near the  Sataf Spring (not far from Jerusalem) lives Shay Zeltser (with his huge beard), who is considered the top goat cheese maker in the Israel. Living alone in a small valley, near a natural cave where he keeps the cheese, this dairy is well worth visiting. Consult the people in the Sataf nature reserve entrance if you want to avoid getting lost on the unpaved mountain roads. Shay is one of 3 Israelis invited to judge in international cheese competitions.

Near the village of Yodfat, you can find the dairy “Halav Im Haruach”, (literally “Milk with Spirit”) but which in Hebrew sounds very close to “Gone with the Wind”. This small dairy got several recommendations from my friends, especially for their smoked ricotta.

If you happen to visit one of the many many “Farmer Markets” operating mainly on Friday mornings around the country, look for the Tson-El cheese stand. The dairy is located in Zipori, and produces a nice selection of fine goat cheese.

Chag Sameach – Happy Holiday

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