This is absolutely the resort of our dreams!
Here in the office of New England Cheesemaking Supply, poised on the edge of winter, we are already planning our escape to the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge in Belmopan, Belize. You have to check this out!
First of all, it's a gorgeous place with "jungle bungalows," "tree houses," swimming pool, hot tub, 15 acres of gardens, etc., etc. You can see for yourself with the help of 360 degree viewing at their website.
Secondly, it's an adventure resort which means you can participate in all kinds of exciting activities while you're there - like caving, zip lining, diving, kayaking, horseback riding, exploring ancient ruins and more.
However, to us, the most exciting adventure of them all is happening right at the resort, every weekday - small-scale commercial cheese making. And this is no afterthought in the larger scheme of things - this is owner, Ian Anderson's pride and passion.
Ian and his wife, Ella, are making some serious cheese there and they are setting up to be a destination spot for cheese lovers.
They sent me this impressive list of the cheeses they are currently making:
- Old Brabander, a German recipe, semi hard, 16 oz rounds.
- Trappist, a recipe from the Trappist Monasteries in Europe, semi hard, 14 oz rounds.
- Spressa, a recipe from Northern Italy, a harder semi-hard cheese, 16 oz rounds.
- Parmesan, an old Italian recipe, 16 oz and 10 lb rounds.
- Triple Crème Camembert, creeeeeamy Yummmmmmy, 4, 8 and 12 oz rounds.
- Quark, a whipped breakfast cheese, any amount.
- Soft Ripened Cheeses, finished in a number of ways including dusting with a blend of 6 different peppercorns, topped with a habanero jelly or molded with a baked garlic and herbs, rounds of approximately 8 oz.
- And of course, daily from the whey, Ricotta.
That's quite a variety of cheeses! However, the most interesting aspect is that every bit of the income produced by the sale of their cheese is donated to a foundation Ella set up 6 years ago for the children of Belize - The Belize National Youth Chess Foundation.
|2012 National Chess Olympiad sponsored by Caves Branch|
Growing and Expanding
The Andersons have just completed building a new, state-of-the-art cheese house at the resort. It has a wine and cheese tasting room attached to the make room with a viewing window in between.
Ian mentioned to me that he had just made his first cheese in the new house- 44 rounds of Triple Creme Camembert. (Pictures of the new house are coming soon.)
Ian and his son, Gabe in the old cheese room:
I asked Ian how he got into this:
Initially, we started a small "petting zoo" for the young children across the country to visit and have the ability to touch and hold young and small animals. We had chickens and the children collected the eggs. Sheep and goats were milked and for lunch we would serve those eggs as fried egg sandwiches and a cold glass of fresh sheep or goats milk. It was a real experience for the children.
But then I decided to do something with the milk as well. Like "cheese" so I found a bunch of recipes on the internet and started making cheese! Well, I thought it was cheese, but my wife said, "not so fast buddy" .. and said that before I made any more of what I thought was cheese, (but it seemed I was the only one who thought that), I had to learn how to make it properly. I think she was worried about me perhaps poisoning our son, Gabe, who was always the cheese taster.
I again prowled the internet, this time to find cheese classes and in doing so, I found this article on a Vermont family and their experience with their sheep and the USDA. I purchased their book called "MAD SHEEP" and as I was reading, I knew I just had to learn "cheese making" from them.
In September of last year I flew from Belize to Boston, rented a car and drove to the historical bed & breakfast and artisan cheese house of Dr. Larry and Linda Faillace in Warren Vermont.
Now, I am a pioneer of adventure tourism in Belize - the first to introduce caving to tourism, the first to explore miles and miles of underground rivers (going who knew where), and the first to explore hundreds of miles of underground passages into Xibalba, the Ancient Mayan underworld. I'm used to exciting holidays - but the two weeks I spent with the Faillace's learning how to make cheese were two of the more enjoyable adventures of my life! - who would have guessed?
So, back to Belize I came - all full of piss n' vinegar and ready to make cheese - and we did. We made cheese day and night, every day - first just one gallon at a time, then a couple of gallons, then 5 gallons a day, then 10 gallons, now we are to 30 gallons a day and selling "all of our cheeses" at the local market and over Facebook to friends.
I decided that although Caves Branch is an adventure lodge, there are some days when our guests just want to take a day off and relax. We are now just finishing a new cheese room with a 500 sq ft work area, 250 sq ft wine and cheese tasting room and a 12 x 14 ft walk-in aging room. Now when guests prefer to take a day off, they can learn how to make cheese with us each day.
|Ian Anderson and Dr. Larry Faillace when Three Shepherds Farm came to Belize to do consulting at Caves Branch|
An Exciting Learning Opportunity!
Ian is now bringing the cheese course he took in Vermont to Belize. In January, 2013, the owners of Three Shepherds Cheese in Vermont, Larry and Linda Faillace are going to teach two 4 day cheese making courses at the resort. The package deal includes lodging and meals for 5 days and nights. There will be a maximum of 10 participants in each course.
This is an opportunity! If you were to take the three day class at Three Shepherds Farm in Vermont, the workshop alone would cost $595. (That doesn't include the nice little bed & breakfast you would want to stay at.) But, most importantly, where are there jungle animals in Vermont?
Tell me this isn't a great!!! deal:
Belize Cheese Making Courses
Our artisanal cheesemaking course is ideal for the home cheesemaker and anyone considering small-scale commercial cheese production. In three fun-filled days, you will learn how four ingredients and basic kitchen equipment can be used to create hundreds of exquisite cheeses. By the end of the class, our students will be able to pick up any cheese recipe and know how to successfully make that cheese.
Cheese Making Adventure Package Includes:
Complimentary drinks upon arrival
5 nights accommodations in either a one of our Jungle Bungalows with optional upgrades to the TreeHouses.
All meals from Dinner on day or arrival to Breakfast on day of departure (5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners)
1 x ½ day Caves Branch Adventure (as organized by the program directors)
Cheese Making Adventures… 3 full days of cheese making course instruction, hands on cheese making, all required literature, materials and equipment with instruction by Larry and Linda Faillace.
Full use of Caves Branch facilities hot tub, swimming pools and personalized walking tours through the 15 acre botanical gardens and orchid gardens.
Cheeses of Italy January 17th - 22th, 2013
Italy has been a center of cheese production for well over 4,000 years, and some of the world's best known and loved cheeses hail from the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, and Sardinia.
Cheeses from around the World January 24th - 29th, 2013
The courses explore various cheeses from around the world, including some fascinating Latin American cheeses. Latin American cheeses are little known in North America, but demand for these cheeses is on the increase due to expanded interest in the cuisine of this region.
4 day cheese course only: USD$595
Full all inclusive 5 night cheese making packge (as listed above) including the Cheesemaking Course: USD$1,108/ based on double occupancy.
Additional nights of stay and activities can be arranged at the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge or at our Beach Resort. Please inquire at Cheese@CavesBranch.com.
Caves Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge
Mile 41 ½ Hummingbird Hwy.
P.O. Box 356