Saturday, November 12, 2011
I was decidedly nervous about going to this get-together. Was I really going to share my ideas in front of Kate Arding (ridiculously knowledgeable cheese geek)? Somehow I managed to put on my big girl pants, and speak up-a bit. I tend to get nervous in those types of situations, and have a then I go all blushy on my ears. I'm not going to recap the ideas, all I can say is that the magazine and website are going to be even better in the months to come. All in all, it was a fun time, and it was great to get a behind the scenes look at how the magazine is put together.
If you have any suggestions, critiques or compliments I know they'd love to hear them. Follow the link and let them know what's on your mind.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
I think that it's the same with cheesemongers and other cheese folk. We need to have other geeks to talk to about cheese. We need other people to get really excited about new cheeses on the market. We need to share photos and stories from festivals and conferences. We need our herd.
Since leaving Chicago and moving back to Vermont I have been without my people. Instead of being surrounded by cheese-lovin' fools I have a boss who says "It tastes like cheddar" every time she tries a cheese that she doesn't like. There is mockery over my cheese excitement. No one else has turned one of their veggie crispers into a cheese box.
I miss my herd.
Then in august I went to the ACS conference and was surrounded by people who love cheese. Almost every meal had cheese, the seminars were full of cheese, I even volunteered to help set up the "Festival of Cheese". There were cheese events, pairings, and chatter. I went out to eat with other cheese-minded people and even though we didn't always get the cheesiest dish, it was great being surrounded by my people.
Upon finding out what I was doing for work in Vermont, one of my cheesemaker friends asked me a simple question "why?" We spoke about "why" and I tried to answer the question not just for him, but for myself also.
Since coming back from the conference I've been listless, sad, depressed, filled with ennui and unable to write. Each time I tried to write something I would think about how much I miss the cheese-filled part of my life, or how much I missed my cheesy Chicago friends.
I miss my herd.
Last night it occurred to me that nothing is wrong with me, I'm just a goat who needs other goats to frolic with. I am going to attempt to get myself out of this funk. One of the ways I'm going to do this is by writing again. Every week I am going to write something about cheese. I am not going to obsess about it. I am not going to get hung up on the imperfections of my grammar or the fact that I like to make up words that don't exist in the english language. I am not going to worry about making sure it's polished, and then getting so o.c.d. about it that I end up not writing anything. I'm just going to write.
Hopefully this exercise will help me recapture my cheese joy and will give me a virtual herd of cheese enthusiasts.
*My astrological sign is capricorn, but this blog is about cheese, not signs or planets. Although I don't read my horoscope, or put much stock in astrological signs, it is pretty clear that the traits associated with my sign can also be attributed to my favorite barnyard creatures.
**One of my girlfriends had some pet pygmy goats a few years back. While the three goats enjoyed playing with each other, one of the goats developed a strong bond with my girlfriends' big boxer dog. I've also heard that goats will bond with horses and other farm animals, they just need more than what we humans can give them.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The ACS was formed in 1983 and held it's first competition in 1985 where a total of 89 cheeses were entered. This year there were almost 1700 different entries. What really made this year different was that it was the first time that the ACS has been held out of the U.S.A. Even though I've been a member since 2008, this was only my second time attending a full conference and it was a blast!
The seminars were educational, provocative (the debate between raw milk and pasteurized is never-ending) and fun; seeing and chatting with people I haven't seen in months or years was great; but of course I spent a lot of my time
Since the conference was held in Canada it was a great opportunity to try cheeses that you can't find in the States-including the world famous Oka cheese. While tasting cheese is fantastic there are two events people I get most excited about: the awards ceremony and the festival of cheese.
The awards ceremony is when a cheesemaker gets to find out how well their entry fared. Unlike many cheese competitions, there is no guarantee of a first place winner in a category. The ACS grades cheese on a "must have" point value. If it take 95 points to be a contender for 1st place and none of the cheeses in that category gets 95 points, there's no first place winner. With this point system in place it means that sometimes there are ties for second or third place, and still no blue ribbon handed out. Rogue Creamery won Best of Show (for the second time) this year, making that the second cheese to ever win Best of Show twice (Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the other, having won three times)
The festival of cheese is an overwhelming night of cheese, wine and beer. Every single product that was entered in the competition (from kefir and yogurt to farmstead bandaged cheddar) is available to taste. With almost 1700 entries this year you had to plan my tasting strategically-I usually start with the yogurt and feta and work my way to the strong, peppery blues and funky, stinky washed rind cheeses. Walking into the room where the festival is held is always a bit of an olfactory overload, but I love it.
This year I volunteered at the conference and was one of many who helped to set up the cheese displays for that nights' festival. This was my first year volunteering and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm a quick learner, listened to what some seasoned volunteers told me, and have some tips to help you all should you decide to volunteer.
1. Try not to get the cheddar table. When cheesemakers submit their cheeses they have to submit it in the original form. Many cheesemakers make 40# block cheddars. Cheddar (generally) is white or orange. Creating an asthetically appealing table from huge block of white and orange is a substantial challenge.
2. The soft-ripened table is awesome! Bloomy rinds as far as the eye can see. Since these cheeses don't do as well sitting out for hours before consumed, you've got to have some fast hands and team coordination in order to make the display.
3. The table of blues is by far the messiest. You'll be picking blue cheese crumbles out of your pants, shirt and bra.
4. Unless you want to attract all the dogs in the neighborhood with your new scent, try to stay away from the smoked table. The table I worked on was right next to the smoked table and it just made me want kielbasa all day long.
I was on the flavored cheese table. A lot of flavored cheeses are things you would expect like pepperjack and cumin studded goudas. We tried a lot of different cheeses while setting up. Some were good, and some were bad, but there's one that stood out in my mind and mouth as one of the weirdest things that's happened to my taste buds in years.
PINA COLADA CHEESE
It was bad. Really bad. Now to be fair, it DID taste like its name would have you believe. The first bite was mild, and I didn't get much pineapple or coconut flavor. Then it hit me. Since I'm used to pineapple and coconut being put together in a large glass with an excessive amount of rum this was a shock. It's solid form made my mouth unhappy and confused my brain. I have been trying to think of how one could use this cheese, or even if one should. I've come up with no answers. I won't tell you to never eat it, but I will caution you to think twice. If anyone has had this cheese, and knows a few tasty ways it can be applied in a recipe please let me know.
Stay tuned, part two will have photos, new and tasty cheeses and the most overwhelming plate of poutine that I could find.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Yesterday was the 3rd annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival up at Shelburne Farms. I've gone for all three years, but I don't think I'll be going next year.
Here are the problems I had and possible ways to solve them. I am going to mention ways that the festival could improve, and also things I could have done to make the experience better (hindsight is 20/20).
Problem: Too many people + Too small a space = neurotic Cheesewench on the verge of a full-blown panic attack all day long.
Solution: Have the festival go for two days. Space it out. Don't try to cram 1700+ people into a really small space for 6 hours.
Cheesewench solution: Go towards the end of the day when less people are typically at events like this. This year I had to go early because I was doing a cheese course at a benefit dinner.
Problem: Too much beer and wine ( I can't believe I'm saying that) It's a Cheesemakers Festival and I allow for some leniency. Beer and wine are delicious with cheese. The problem was that there were so many breweries and wineries there. That made for a lot of long lines, which cut off the flow of the rooms. I was pushed, shoved, and had beer spilled on my shirt. People thought it was a bar, and more than a few people had "sampled" too much.
Solution: less beer and wine vendors
Cheesewench solution: start a fight with someone who has been drinking. Tell them Budweiser is the best beer in the States, goad them until a fight breaks out and the cops are called. Be the only person sober and avoid prosecution and jail time.*
Problem: Value for money. This year I felt that people were purchasing tickets to go to a very large cheese and booze based farmers market.
Solution: more seminars and to include more of them in the price of your ticket
Cheesewench solution: Don't spend more money on buying cheese than you did on your ticket. I acknowledge that this is virtually impossible.
The festival is a good opportunity to taste some new cheeses, show off Vermont goodies to tourists and perhaps get to meet and chat with a cheesemaker. Overall it's a good showcase for Vermont cheese, wine and beer, I just don't think it's for me anymore.
That being said, there were a few cheeses that I hadn't had before that stood out for me.
Fat Toad Farm-makers of ridiculously tasty caramel and goat cheese- had a cheese I'd never tried before. Ginger cilantro sesame. I was a bit nervous about trying it, but it was/is fantastic! I wanted to stuff eggplant with it, or do an Asian inspired version of stuffed peppers.
Grafton Cheese Company came out with four new and non-cheddar cheeses. I tried all four of them and the one that I found to be best was the Vermont Barn Dance. It's a washed curd, sheep-cow blend cheese that has a rich round mouthfeel along with a slight tang. Grafton has also changed some of their packaging. You may start seeing the Grafton Tavern label on your cheese. Don't worry though, it's still the tasty cheddar you know and love.
|I waited in line for about 3 days just to try this cheese|
|Crowded room of people getting their cheese and booze on|
*Clearly this is not a viable solution, and I don't recommend it. PBR is obviously the superior beer.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
They also make some really tasty fresh chevre that I'm hoping to carry in the store. A week ago I was sitting in my room on my day off and trying to see which cheesemaker I wanted to go to next. I was thinking about Fat Toad. I was messing round on facebook and saw an update from them with photos of the goats. It was a sign. Fate had intervened and I was going to play with goats.
The next day I headed out on the road, took the "scenic route" (got a bit lost) and went looking for goats.
I know I say this every single time I visit with goats at any farm, but they are just the cutest things ever! Like dogs, but not as slobbery. All the girls and kids were sitting in their little greenhouse-esque dwelling, looking very hot and uncomfortable. One of the farm workers (whose name I can't remember now and didn't write down because it wasn't really that kind of visit) let all the goats out and lead them into a cool and shaded area full of trees, stumps to jump on and plenty of things to nibble.
I followed them.
She let me hold their newest kid, Venus. You know what's cuter than a two week old goat who is all wobbly and small and cute? Nothing. I fell in love and when I came back to work the next day asked my bosses if we could have goats at the farm. I want goats. They are my precious.
One of the dams came over and gave me a little nibble. Then another trotted on by, and another. Before I knew it I was surrounded by dams who were giving me the once over by nibbling me everywhere. Usually when a stranger nibbles on my earlobe I don't succumb to hysterical giggling. A few of the mothers got a bit bored doing their taste-test and went over to the trees to get some bark.
That made room for the little ones.
One kid came at me full speed, lowered her head and got me in the shin. It was one of the cutest things I've ever experienced, although the third time she did it I realized that I was getting a bit sore, and shooed her away.
Even though there was no cheese acquired on this visit (production will be going on later in the month) I got some of their caramel sauce and had my spirits raised considerably by the antics of all the animals on the farm. In addition to goats, chickens, 1 rooster, a few boy goats and some pigs, there are several dogs who want to play with you. Seriously. Throw the stick. They really want you to throw the stick. THROW THE STICK!
Spending time with goats is one of the most relaxing, blood pressure reducing, laughter inducing ways to spend part of your day, and the kids and goats at Fat Toad Farm are some of the nicest goats I've ever met. I went home that day dirty, smelling a bit musky (boy goats leave their funk on your hands and anything else they touch) and with a big smile on my face.
I wonder if Fat Toad Farm would just let me stop by when I need a little pick-me-up. Much more fun than drowning your sorrows in ice cream and old Meg Ryan movies.
|Here comes Venus...and the person whose name I can't remember because I'm a jerk.|
|Trees are tasty|
|Headbutt a Trois|
|My little Venus has the racing stripe down her back|
|The goats hear something in the distance...|
|...super fluffly cat, up too high in this tree|
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Before I left Chicago I was spending a lot of time with my nephew. He's going to be four in July and he's the cutest thing in the world. Not to be a big jerk about it, but my nephew can totally out-cute your nephew. This winter, after watching him for the afternoon I made dinner for everyone. Grilled cheese sandwiches were on the menu. The adults also had tomato and chickpea soup.
Little Kian asked me to video tape him. I told him I would do it while he ate dinner (a great way to get a toddler to eat.) This video is from that night. His sandwich was made of Grafton 1 year Cheddar. The adults had a mix of Comte, Taleggio, Grafton 1 year Cheddar and some odds and ends that were in my cheese box.
Enjoy the video!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Remember back at the end of February when I told you that I was moving back to Vermont, and then in March I did, but was living at my brothers' house and didn't have a job or car and was thinking that moving without a job or car or any real $$ in the bank was one of the most impulsive (and stupid) things I'd ever done, and I'd lost all my pants somewhere in Ohio or Indiana (long story) and I was pretty sure that that was a sign that I shouldn't have moved back to Vermont, but then things got better because there was an opportunity for me to work on a farm store and I could move out of my brothers' place and everything was going to be okay, and it was a good thing that I'd gotten out of Chicago? Remember?
Well, one of the things that I hadn't really considered was how the cat was going to adjust. After living with just me (or me and one other person) for the past 7 1/2 years she was a bit freaked out about moving into my brothers' house. Lots of people going in and out, and another cat was living there. She hates cats. I thought that moving out to a quieter part of Vermont, and living in a quieter house would be good for her. I even had the dream that she be an indoor/outdoor kitty and would find her inner wild kitty. She would hunt and chase things and then there would be rainbows and unicorns and glittery sparkly stickers!
I was wrong.
A few days ago I took the cat out to walk around the farm. Everything was okay. She was a bit timid, but was starting to enjoy following me around the farmhouse. I had high hopes that she would become a wonderful outdoor kitty and would kill the voles that have been terrorizing the tomato plants in the greenhouse.
That didn't happen.
Someone pulled into the driveway. And a super friendly and curious dog (she usually likes dogs) came around the corner. To my cat that meant one thing; time to panic.
She fled to a corner of the workshop filled with all sorts of solvents, an air compressor, and tools that could poke out an eye. I had to drag her out of that hole two times. After being in the workshop I gave her a little bath to try to get any gunk off of her. I shold've known something was wrong when she just sat there with huge, green, bewildered kitty eyes and let me give her a bath. Not a good sign.
The past few days she's been living in a state of fear and nervousness. I don't know if she's afraid of the outside, of the other employee who lives in the house, farm tools, gravel, grass or a combination of all the sounds and smells of springtime in Vermont. All I know is that she's taken to hiding in a bag of clothes, or in the bathroom cupboard which startles me every time. I squeal, she freaks out and goes to hide under the bed.
I'm pretty sure I broke the cat.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Looking through the cupboard I saw some pasta, chicken stock and beans. Awesome! Rummaging through my brothers' side of the shelf in the fridge and I found some tasty looking sausage. I went through my cheese box and uncovered a wedge of Orb Weaver cheese. Awwww yeah. That's when the sh#@ got real.
Orb Weaver is a delicious cheese that comes to us from Orb Weaver Farm in New Haven, VT. Yes, the farm and resulting cheese take their name from the orb weaver spider *shudders*. I don't want to write about spiders, so I'm going to lift this part straight from their website
...An orb weaver is a spider that makes delicate, symmertical webs. For us, she is a metaphor for the cyclical rhythms of the farm, sowing, harvesting and enriching the soil to grow new pastures and gardens season after season.And that's the last time I'm going to mention eight-legged creepy crawly creatures on my blog.
So what's the cheese like? Imagine if gouda and havarti got together and had a baby. It has that kind of texture, soft and creamy with a nice open airy paste. The flavors are milky, with a buttery sweet cream flavor, a hint of tanginess and just a tiny smidge of brown butter and hay. So good. She's also a great melting cheese.
Here's what you'll need for my poor man's resourceful pasta dish-this is going to feed two people really hungry people (with huge bowls full) with some leftovers for lunch the next day.
2/3# of pipette pasta. I'm sure you can use penne, or any other grooved pasta shape.
1 can cannellini beans
1 onion-sliced thin (julienne)
2 cloves garlic-minced
two links of sausage (optional it if you're having an herbivore day)
16 oz. chicken (or veg stock)
salt and pepper to taste
- Cook your pasta until it's about 3/4 cooked. Drain it, but reserve some of the starchy water-you can boil the pasta while you're doing all the skillet work. Don't forget to salt your water when you cook the pasta.
- Take the sausage out of the casing and break it into little chunks. Brown it in a large skillet
- Before the sausage is completely cooked, take the onion and cook it in the sausage fat (or if omitting sausage, use a little grapeseed oil)
- When the onion is just starting to caramelize, add the garlic-be careful not to brown it too much. Garlic that's too brown=bitter ickiness.
- De-glaze your pan with the stock. Be sure to scrape up any brown bits on the pan-that's where the tasty stuff is. Reduce the liquid by about 1/2
- Pour in your can of drained canellini beans to the mix
- Add your pasta and pasta water to the skillet-the starchy water is going to help thicken the sauce
- Grate a whole bunch of cheese (I used about 1/3# because we're serious caseophiles) and start adding it to the sauce in small increments, allowing each addition to melt before you add more. You may not need 1/3# of cheese, but since you're probably going to nibble while you make this I would advise it
- Toss the whole shabang in the pan to make sure all of your noodles are coated
- Eat it.
- Congratulate youself on coming up with a super tasty dish in almost no time flat.
|It's a little beige, but super tasty. Chiffonade some leafy greens to add color and numminess.|
**I've got two brothers. Usually I identify them by calling one the "good" brother. That wouldn't make sense to you, so I'll just say that the current good brother is the one who drove out to Chicago, and drove 20hrs non-stop back to VT, is letting me borrow his car, and let me stay in his room for 6 weeks until I found a job and place to live.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Usually grilled cheese is for lunch or dinner (or breakfast), but I wanted to try for a dessert-ish sandwich. My inspiration was the New England classic, apple pie and cheddar cheese. For those of you not familiar with this tasty treat, typically the cheese (white cheddar) is melted on top of the pie. The pie is all warm and nummy and the cheese is just melty enough. I wanted to see if I could do a recreation of that in sandwich form.
I'm not going to give you a recipe per se, but I'll tell you what ingredients I used.
|Nummy goat cheese with ash.|
For the spread I used jam from Elmore Roots Nursery. They're a local VT business and have wonderful spreads. Although all of the jams I've had from them have an apple base, for this sandwich I went for the super appley crabapple flavor. The sweetness of the jam was a perfect pairing for sharp acidic cheddar and salty, citrusy, goat cheese.
So here's the "recipe".
- Take two pieces of bread and do a light smear of crabapple spread on one side
- Put a few slices of cheddar on top of the jam
- Add a few slender slices of goat cheese-with the rind
- Put second piece of bread on top
- Put in pan until toasty, melty, goodness occurs
- Put it in your tummy
Monday, March 28, 2011
- Gorgonzola (try going for the slightly more aged Mountain, Dolce could be just too sweet)
- Saint Agur-a triple creme blue from France that tastes like butter and blue cheese got it on and had a baby
- Blue D'Auvergne-another French blue, a bit more bite than the other two. Could be a bit strong for some blue cheese scaredy-cats.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
One of my favorite cheeses ever is Ascutney Mountain. I've talked about it before on this blog; the super melty goodness, the nutty, clover, grassy butteriness, how Ascutney Mountain is one of the best cheeses you'll ever put in your mouth etc.
Well last night I was at the Coop with my Ma looking for some ice cream and lo and behold what do I see, frozen yogurt made by the fantastic Cobb Hill people. Awesome! There were three flavors available: vanilla, chocolate and maple. Since it's sugaring season I had to go with the maple flavor.
A few things I should tell you
- I love maple syrup.
- I love maple cotton candy and have made 4 hr round trips to sugar houses just to get it.
- I don't really care for frozen yogurt. Ice cream and gelato are much nummier.
**I'm an adult, and know that ice cream is not an appropriate chaser for sweet frozen yogurt, but I've been sick lately, so that's what happened.
This post is for Ma who knows that the only thing that really helps you get over a hospitalization is ice cream. Antibiotics are a distant (and not nearly as tasty) second.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
A little while back (pre-Vermont move) I splurged on some nummies to share with some friends. Today we're talking about Grayson (wedge with deep russet coloring) and a brand new cheese Mini-Grayson (isosceles triangle in the front)
Monday, January 31, 2011
This miracle cheese came to me courtesy of Widmer's Cheese Cellars in Wisconsin.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
- I resolve to eat more sheep milk cheese. I have been loving on the goats for years now. It's time to bring more Baa Baa to my life.
- I will accept orange Cheddar (I'm already halfway there)
- I will cook more cheese-centric recipes.
- I will renew my membership to the ACS in a timely manner, not wait until I get a second reminder letter like I did last year.
- I will visit cheesemakers outside of Vermont. (Maybe Maine?)
- I will never watch Sex and the City part 2 ever again. My eyes, ears and soul are still recovering.
- I will convince my once cheese-loving nephew to stop being a wicked beastie and to love cheese again. He's 3 1/2 so this could be an uphill battle.
- I will finally clean out the fridge.
- Battlestar Galactica is awesome!
You've just got to have a blue for Christmas and I brought back some Stichelton. A raw milk delicious blue that tastes like Stiltons' wilder, more flavorful cousin. Next up is the Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in upstate New York. I have been pushing to get this cheese into our store for at least six months. Finally, my boss relented and agreed that this would be a fantastic cheese to bring in for the holiday season.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
When I promise you an overwhelmingly mediocre video I deliver! This week is Christmas and I'm wondering, what's going to be on your cheese plate?
Monday, December 13, 2010
Now that it’s almost Christmas I’m finally going to write about our Thanksgiving feast. I celebrated with my 3 yr old nephew, my brother and sister-in-law (both vegan*) and two other friends. There was a tofurkey that word just looks really dirty in print for the vegans and a big ol’ bird for the omnivores. I made my world famous sweet potato pie with pecan butter crust and a veganized version that was bereft of the richness that can only be accomplished with two whole sticks of butter but was tasty nonetheless.
But you don’t care about that stuff do you? Of course not, you wanna know about the cheese. Before dinner we had a lovely little cheese course. The crackers were from 34 Degrees. The Apple Butter comes from Seedling in Michigan. The Fig and Black Tea jam from the amazingly awesome, super-cute and nifty husband and wife team, Matt and Clare of Quince & Apple.**
On to the cheese. First on the list is Bonne Bouche. You know my love for that cheese; my obsession with it’s silky, creamy, goaty goodness. I’m not going to expound too much except to say that goat cheese + fig and black tea jam = super awesome happy tumminess.
Next up is Quadrello di Bufala. You know that cheese from water buffalo milk is delicious right? Of course you do. You also know that water buffalo milk has a high butterfat content and makes everything super tasty right? Imagine if you a will a cheese made from the rich, fatty goodness of water buffalo milk, washed rind and inspired by Taleggio. What you get is this cheese that has a rough looking rind (a bit like tree bark), a soft (not gooey) paste and an almost indescribable taste. It’s a bit like butter and cream and sweet almond milk came together and had a delicious baby. It’s not as stinky as my beloved Taleggio, but it sure is delicious.
Here in the States you don’t usually see a lot of water buffalo cheeses, and when you do it’s usually Mozzarella. Tasty, but boring considering what is out there. Do yourself a favor and the next time you’re at the cheese shop/counter/auction ask your monger for a taste of anything with water buffalo milk . Delish!
Next is a cheese you won’t find for sale. A “Reblochon” aged for less than 60 days. Yes, it’s contraband cheese. I don’t care. A cheesemaker friend is experimenting and one of the benefits of having chesemaker friends (or in this case a friend of a cheesemaker friend) is that you get to try all manner of cheesy treats. Sometimes they’re delicious and your friend lets you cut a big chunk of treat and you share it with your friends on Thanksgiving. Some days I’m positive that I have the best job in the world.
While I’m not going to talk about this particular attempt at Reblochon (the flavor was there, but the texture needed work) I will tell you a bit about the actual AOC protected Reblochon from France.
The story behind the cheese is that back in the medieval days farmers were taxed based on how much milk their cows produced. In order to “mislead” the inspectors the farmers would milk the cows partially and then when the coast was clear would milk the cows again. The word reblocher loosely translates to the practice of the second milking. The second milking was used to make Reblochon.
Reblochon reblocher. Reblochon, reblocher. Uma. Oprah. Pretty nifty hu? Reblochon is also one of the most popular cheeses of France that you might never try in the States due to it’s raw milk, aged for less than 60 days status. If by some chance you get the opportunity to taste its luscious, creamy, paste please do.
Then there’s the BIG DADDY. My new bestest friend in the cheese world. Weighing in at approximately 12oz, coming from the rolling hills of Dodgeville Wisconsin from Uplands Cheese it’s RUSH CREEK!
About a month ago Rush Creek was released to much acclaim, and a frantic elbow-throwing desire by the public that I haven’t personally experienced since the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of the 1980’s. Yes, I'm that old. If you don't know what Cabbage Patch Kids are, think about the Tickle Me Elmo craze and you'll be on the right path.
What makes this cheese so special? I will try to speak of it critically, not emotionally.
- It's made by Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin. The folks who in the eleven years of entering the ACS conference have won 'Best of Show' an unprecedented 3 times including on their first time out.
- It's made of raw milk
- It is super uber soft and creamy almost like ready-to-eat fondue
- It's belted in bark
- Andy Hatch and his wife are nifty
- It's a seasonal cheese (come March nary a round shall be found)
- It's made from the fall and winter milk which is richer in fatty goodness and gives the cheese a sexy, slightly naughty feeling in your mouth
- Nom nom nom
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I can tell you that I often purchase raw milk cheese. When I visit a farm I drink the raw milk that is offered to me, eat cheeses that aren't at the 60 day mark, and pretty much will try anything from a cheesemaker that I visit. I've gotten a few questions from readers about raw milk cheese, so here are some answers for you courtesy of cheese authority Janet Fletcher as shared by the ACS.
The Myths about Raw-Milk Cheese
-by Janet Fletcher
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort and English Cheddar are among the most sought-after selections in any cheese case. But are they also among the most dangerous?
Along with dozens of other raw-milk treasures—Fontina Val d’Aosta, Swiss Gruyère, Comté, Vermont Shepherd— these classic cheeses bear the weight of the myths and misperceptions surrounding raw milk. Some advocates suggest that raw-milk cheese is as safe as corn flakes—people aren’t dying like flies in Europe, are they? Yet others preach caution. With some physicians advising pregnant women to avoid all raw-milk cheese, consumers are
wondering where the danger lies. Does your cheese department staff know the raw-milk facts? Let’s examine some of the commonly held beliefs about pasteurization and its impact on milk, cheese and health. Anyone in the business of selling cheese needs to be able
to tell the myths from the truth.
Myth 1: Pasteurized milk is sterile.
Not true. If pasteurized milk were sterile, an unopened carton wouldn’t spoil. Pasteurization kills a lot of bacteria, including all the pathogens (disease-causing organisms) like Listeria and Salmonella and some but not all of the bacteria that make milk spoil. So pasteurization does make milk safer while it also increases the shelf-life. There is more than one way to pasteurize. You can heat the milk to a high temperature (161 degrees F.) for a short time (15 seconds). Or you can heat the milk to a lower temperature (145 degrees F.) for a longer time (30 minutes).
Most cheesemakers would say that the high-temperature, short-time (HTST) method does less damage to milk quality. A third heat-treatment procedure, known as thermization or thermalization, stops short of pasteurization. This method preserves the milk enzymes while significantly reducing bacterial counts. The FDA considers thermalized milk as raw
milk, so cheeses made with thermalized milk must still be aged at least 60 days.
Myth 2: Raw milk has more nutrient value than pasteurized milk.
Not significantly. According to Moshe Rosenberg, food science professor at the University of California at Davis, vitamin loss from pasteurization is either too small to measure or less than 10 percent. The exception is vitamin C, which drops by about 20 percent. Many people believe in the health benefits of raw milk’s enzymes. Pasteurization does denature enzymes, but
according to Rosenberg, milk enzymes can’t withstand the low pH in the human stomach anyway. They don’t do anything for our digestion or health.
Myth 3: Pregnant women should avoid all raw-milk cheese.
The concern here is Listeria, which can harm a fetus. So do physicians have science behind them when they tell pregnant patients to forego all raw-milk cheese? Studies suggest not. Although high-moisture, unripened cheeses like cottage cheese and queso fresco and soft
cheeses such as Brie and Camembert can support Listeria growth, aged raw-milk cheeses like Parmigiano- Reggiano, English Cheddar, Gruyère and Emmenthal cannot. They’re too dry, too low in pH, too high in salt. When Listeria turns up in cheese, it’s almost always in moist, soft cheese made with milk that was improperly pasteurized or contaminated after pasteurization. There have been several large outbreaks of listeriosis associated with Hispanic-style cheeses prepared under non-commercial conditions. The FDA’s own risk assessent puts hard cheese last in Listeria potential among 23 common foods, including produce (www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/lmr2-toc.html). From the standpoint of Listeria risk, it would make more sense to warn pregnant women away from fruits, vegetables or deli meats than to caution them about aged raw-milk cheese. Aged raw-milk cheeses are excellent sources of calcium and protein, needed by pregnant women. The law requires raw-milk cheese—domestic or imported—to be aged at least 60 days at 35 degrees F. or above. By that point, most cheeses are no longer soft or moist, and are highly unlikely to harbor Listeria. (Some underage raw-
milk cheeses do enter this country illegally, and pregnant women should avoid them.)
Myth 4: Raw-milk cheese tastes better than cheese made from pasteurized milk.
That widespread belief comes under fire once you taste a Colston-Bassett Stilton, Spain’s luscious Nevat, a mountain Gorgonzola or the washed-rind Red Hawk from California’s Cowgirl Creamery—all from pasteurized milk. In the hands of a good cheesemaker, pasteurized milk does just fine. Pasteurization does destroy some of the microflora in milk—the “bad bacteria as well as the desirable flavor- and aroma-producing enzymes. Without these enzymes, cheese made from pasteurized milk has less potential for flavor development. In one study, researchers at France’s Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique made the same cheeses from both raw and pasteurized milk. The raw-milk versions developed flavor sooner and the flavor was richer and more complex. The researchers’ conclusion: Pasteurization alters the biochemistry and microbiology of ripening and thus the texture and flavor of the cheese. All things being equal, raw milk will produce a more complex cheese than pasteurized milk. Nevertheless, most
cheesemakers would agree that fresh, high-quality pasteurized milk is better than low-quality raw milk any day.
Myth 5: Raw-milk cheeses aged more than 60 days are risk-free.
Nothing we eat is risk-free. Cheese can be contaminated at any stage from farm to table: in the milking barn, in the dairy, in the aging room or at the retail counter. The 60-day rule, which dates from 1949, derives from the belief that pathogens can’t survive the low-pH, low-moisture environment of an aged cheese. In fact, scientists have since shown that some pathogens—strains of Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli—can survive in cheese beyond 60 days. In most of these so-called challenge studies, they have inoculated pasteurized milk (not raw
milk) with large quantities of pathogens—far more than you would find in quality milk—then made and aged the cheese. Lo and behold, in some cases, pathogens survived beyond 60 days. Catherine Donnelly, a food microbiologist at the University of Vermont and an international expert on Listeria, believes that pathogens may behave differently in pasteurized-milk cheese than in raw-milk cheese. Says Donnelly, “Having lots of beneficial bacteria present is a good way to combat pathogenic bacteria. Once you eliminate all those good organisms, there’s nothing for the pathogenic bacteria to compete with. What do these challenge studies prove about aged raw-milk cheese, which has a remarkable safety record? In more than 50 years of scientific literature, there are virtually no reports of illness outbreaks from aged raw-milk cheese that can be blamed on the raw milk.
Myth 6: Mandatory pasteurization would make cheese safe for all.
It’s true that pasteurization puts all known milk pathogens out of commission, but it doesn’t prevent milk or cheese from being infected downstream. In fact, it may make it easier, as Donnelly suggests. Not only can pathogens get a foothold when there aren’t any “good bacteria to outcompete them, but dairies may relax their sanitary procedures when they know they’re working with pasteurized milk. One recent study of European washed-rind cheeses found
almost twice as much Listeria in the pasteurized samples than in the raw-milk samples.
“The greatest threat posed to the safety of cheese is due to post-process environmental contamination, writes Donnelly in a scientific paper. In that light, mandatory HACCP plans in dairies would probably do more to safeguard public health than mandatory pasteurization.
Janet Fletcher is the author of The Cheese Course and a staff food writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. This article from the November 2004 issue of Specialty Foods Magazine is made available with their express permission.