Hiroshima Prefecture is divided into two parts: the area bordering the Seto Inland Sea, and the mountainous part inland. The area close to the Inland Sea enjoys a mild climate all year round, and is known for its citrus fruit and abundant seafood.In the mountains, the very wide temperature range makes life hard but also favours the growing of produce with a great depth of flavour. Chef Hiroki Hiramatsu’s latest journey in search of flavour started with a quest forthe finest produce that Hiroshima Prefecture has to offer.
Happy cows and goats make happy cheese
On this trip, Chef Hiramatsu visited Mirasaka, a small town in the Miyoshi basin, in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. Standing alone on the very edge of town is Mirasaka Fromage, acreamery run by Mr Masanori Matsubara, a cheesemaker with an international reputation and customers all over Japan.
Just a stone’s throw from the creamery shop lies the starting point of good cheesemaking: the pasture where Mirasaka Fromage’s cows and goats are free to roam in peace and quiet. Mr Matsubara explained, “This is the mountain style of dairy farming. We try to keep our animals in conditions that are as natural as possible.”
Mr Matsubara’s passion for his craft comes from years of experience, a long journey on which he has advanced, step by step, towards his ideal. He was born in Mirasaka but grew up in Osaka. After graduating from high school he decided that he wanted to be a dairy farmer, and spent some time in the US and Australia studying modern dairy farming techniques. Following this experience he began to wonder what was best approach to dairy farming, and what really makes cows happy. He eventually decided to go into mountain dairy farming, but first worked in forestry for two years to learn more about conditions in the mountains, then spent some time in France and Italy where he immersed himself in learning the craft of cheesemaking.
Mr Matsubara said, “These cows have grown up free to roam on open pasture, so to avoid stressing them we have reduced the number of milkings per day. And when we make our cheese, we take care not to waste even a drop of their precious milk”.
We headed out to the pasture where the Matsubaras’ cows and goats roam free across the hillside, browsing placidly. The cows seemed curiousto see people, and came over to greet Chef Hiramatsu.
Mr Matsubara told us, “The cows here live several times longer than those on modern dairy farms.”
Living in harmony with nature sounds easy, but in practice it’s hard work. Yet we sensed that it’s the Matsubaras’ passion for their craft, and the hurdles they have overcome, that have made Mirasaka Fromage what it is today.
You can’t get fresher than this! The concentrated deliciousness of cheese
Mirasaka Fromage’s cheeses have won many prizes. One of their defining characteristics is freshness of flavour. The different kinds of grass and feed that the cows and goats eat through the year affect the taste of their milk, and the Matsubaras adjust the cheesemaking process accordingly, so that their fresh cheese closely reflects the changing seasons.
By contrast, cheese that has undergone a long maturing process acquires a special depth of flavour. Fresh cheese made with milk from Mirasaka Fromage’s Brown Swiss cows is wrapped in kashiwa oak leaves or smoked before maturing. The creamery also produces wonderful cheese made from the milk of goats that roam free.
Once just a supporting actor, cheese now plays one of the lead roles. Restaurant Hiramatsu Hiroo serves a variety of cheeses from Mirasaka Fromage that will make a delicious conclusion to your meal.
URL：https://m-fromage.com (Japanese Only)