Saturday, November 12, 2011

Culture Magazine Weekend!

Last week I was invited to join a group of cheese lovers for a brainstorming session for Culture Magazine.  It was a great mix of journalists, cheesemakers & retailers.  Oh, and I got to meet Paul Kindstedt who wrote American Farmstead Cheese -one of the most in depth books on cheese on my bookshelf.

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 am a Goat

Last night while I was trying to find some type of visual entertainment to help me ignore the fact that I'm swimming in a sea of melancholy ick I finally figured out the underlying cause of my ennui and sadness.


I'm not talking about my astrological sign*, I'm talking about those super cute milk-giving quadrupeds that I love.  In addition to being smart, clever and cute, goats are social animals.  They need non-human (preferably goaty) friends to play and live with**

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

ACS in Montreal part 1

Last month I went up to Montreal for the ACS Conference.  Before I go any further I have to give a great big thank you to Christine Hyatt for the generous offer of sharing her hotel suite.  If you don't know, Christine is the current President of ACS, and the awesomeness behind the website Cheese-Chick.   I shared a room with Kirsten and Kathleen and really enjoyed meeting those cheese-loving gals in person.

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.


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

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

I love Vermont. I love Vermont cheese. I love Vermont beer. I appreciate Vermont wine.

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

Fat Toad Farm Visit

For years now I have been going on and on about the goat milk caramel (cajeta) being made at Fat Toad Farm.  It's a sexy sauce of deliciousness that I used to have my Ma send to me in care packages when I was in Chicago.

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

National Grilled Cheese Month is Over

That's right folks.  It's now May, so grilled cheese month is done.  Of course I've never needed a pre-determined month to tell me that eating a grilled cheese sandwich is the right thing to do.  My tummy knows best; that you should have a grilled cheese sandwich every month of the year.

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

A post about my cat.

Like the title says, this post is about my cat.  It is not cheese related, and for that I do apologize. I promise the next post will bring us back to the wonderful world of cheese.

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

Dinner on a budget

The other night I was hungry. Hungry and broke. There was no ramen in the cupboard, no leftovers, and if I had to make one more round of scrambled eggs for dinner I was going to lose it. It was time for a plan. It was time to "play the six"*

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.
Now, it would've been awesome if I had some kale, swiss chard or even spinach to add to this dish. Mmm...chard.  The next time I make it I'll be sure to have some greens in the crisper.
It's a little beige, but super tasty. Chiffonade some leafy greens to add color and numminess.
 *I don't usually do this, but "playing the six" is a joke between me, my good-ish brother (not that brother**, the other one) and my sister-in-law.  I don't miss Chicago all that much, but I miss you guys.

**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

April is Grilled Cheese Month!

Every April I go to the cheese counter looking for new combinations of lactic goodness, searching for tasty answers to the question, "will it melt?"  This year I'm starting the month off with something a little sweet.

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.
I almost always have a hunk of cheddar in the fridge and for this sandwich I used Extra Sharp Cheddar from Cabot.  For cheese number two I went for Lake's Edge from Blue Ledge Farm in Vermont.*  This is a young mold-ripened cheese with ash and filled with tangy, creamy, salty, goaty goodness.  Usually I do a little shmear of this on toast with a bit of honey, so it seemed like a good idea for a grilled cheese.

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
It's a little bit sweet with a nice tanginess from the goat cheese. So good!  So how are you going to celebrate this month?

*If you don't have access to Blue Ledge Farms' cheese you can substitute Humbolt Fog.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cashel Blue and Leek Soup

As you know from my previous post, I've been ill lately and spending time at my folks house being pampered with such luxuries as hot and cold running water, free laundry, awesome old cookbooks to pour over and more television than I've watched in the past three years.

Since I was as weak as a newborn kitten, Pa's been doing the cooking.  The other night he made a delightful soup with leeks and Cashel Blue cheese.  It's easy, fast and delicious and he's given me leave to share it with you all today.

Cashel Blue is a delicious, creamy blue cheese from County Tipperary in Ireland. This is one of my favorite blue cheeses.  There's a nice balance between the creamy, salty, peppery and sweet flavors.  Mild enough for the novice blue cheese eater, flavorful  enough for a die-hard blue advocate.  

You don't have to use Cashel Blue for this recipe.  I can think of a few other blues that would do the job quite nicely: 

  • 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.
Really you can use any blue cheese you want as long as it's a cheese that will melt well, and is mild enough to let the numminess of the leeks shine through.

According to Pa, this recipe serves 6 for a main course.  I think it's 6 for an appetizer/starter or 3 for a main course, but maybe I was just really hungry that night.

·  3 large leeks *
·  2 oz. butter (1/2 stick)
·  2 tablespoons olive oil
·  4 oz. Irish blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue (or any melting blue-veined cheese like Gorgonzola)
·  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·  1 tablespoon mustard, or to taste
·  6 1/4 cups chicken stock
·  Ground black pepper
·  1/2 cup blue cheese and chopped chives to garnish 

Thinly slice the leeks.  Heat the butter and oil together in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently cook the leeks, covered, for 10 - 15 minutes until soft but not brown.

Crumble the cheese into the pan, stirring over low heat until completely melted.  Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Add the pepper and mustard to taste.

Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes.  
Serve garnished with additional cheese crumbled on top, along with chopped chives. Serve with crusty bread and a cold Riesling.

*How to clean leeks so your guests aren't eating a soup full of grit (Pa's directions): 
Take off the very tough green leaves of the leeks.  Slice the leeks into 3-inch long sections and halved those long wise, then let the "semi-cylinders" soak in cold water. The idea is for the layers to loosen up any grit/sand/dirt hiding within to float out and sink to the bottom. You bet. Rinse the hell out of them.

I decided to add a little bit of crumbled bacon to my bowl. Quite nummy. Be aware, it's going to bring the saltiness of the soup up a bit. Go easy on the bacon if you go this route.

Bread and butter, bacon and chives.   All acceptable for crumbling into soup, or for sopping up the last little bit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The frozen yogurt that almost cured my pneumonia

Every once in a while I have to tell you about something super awesome that isn't about cheese. And that brings us to today's post.

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

  1. I love maple syrup.  
  2. I love maple cotton candy and have made 4 hr round trips to sugar houses just to get it.
  3. I don't really care for frozen yogurt. Ice cream and gelato are much nummier.
Upon first glance the fro-yo* looks fine.  There's a strong maple-y smell, and a few ice crystals on top, but I blame the Coop and their weird freezers (I've been struggling with that for years now) not Cobb Hill.

So what's this frozen yogurt all about?  It is super awesome and rad? Did I want to eat the entire container until I got a full bloated dairy tummy and ice cream headache?  

Not quite.

The maple flavor was awesome.  After my first bite I exclaimed "It tastes like maple cotton candy, but cold and awesomer"!  It has a slight burnt sugar flavor, and almost finishes a bit like roasted coffee beans. Yum! Then I had a few more spoon fulls.  I developed three cavities, got a huge sugar rush, crashed and got diabetes. I actually had a vanilla ice cream chaser to get some of the super sweetness out of my mouth. **

No decision has been made yet, and I think I'm going to have to try the vanilla or chocolate flavor to decide if I'm ever going to be a frozen yogurt convert.  Until then, I'm going to stick with their cheeses, Ascutney Mountain and Four Corners Caerphilly.  

*I hate the word "fro-yo".  It's right up there with "jeggings" and "frenemies".  "Fro-yo" is just so...blech!

**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

Montasio Vino Rosso

One of the things I love most about cheese is that there's always something new to discover. Today we're taking a look at Montasio Vino Rosso from Italy.

This cheese is made of cows' milk, aged for ten months or so and is covered in Cabernet and Merlot must. This is also one of the more interesting rinds I've encountered in my cheesy travels.

No, this isn't some alien skin under a microscope, it's the super cool rind of the cheese.

Very similar to Drunken Goat from Spain this cheese has a nice sweetness to it, and the aroma is...winey.

Reading that just bored the pants off of me. Let me try again.

Here goes. So you're out on a second date with this guy/girl, and the first date was pretty good, but you're still kind of nervous and trying to figure out what you're going to say because you've already talked about your respective jobs, pets and hobbies and so you decide to get a glass of wine and you end up spilling some of it on your shirt, but luckily its a dark color so it's not noticeable until the next day when you go to do laundry and you smell a faint, sweet hint of wine from the night before.

Although subtle, in this cheese the wine is noticeable in the paste as well. Since it is made from cow milk it has an additional sweetness and some dry hay notes. it's absolutely delicious! I would use this on a cheese plate, or shaved over a salad of greens (arugula would be fantastic).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Animal Animation is Fun!

Thanks to Culture Magazine for bringing the funny!

Monday, March 7, 2011


It's official! I left my job, packed up the apartment and moved back to Vermont. I've been in town for just a few days and I thought it was about time I checked in with everyone.

One of the things I loved best about working in the cheese shop was I had fantastic cheese at my fingertips every single day. The negative was that even though I got an employee discount, I ended up blowing a lot of my income on cheese.

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)

Both cheeses come to us from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. In fact, I wrote a post about Grayson here if you want to check it out.

Grayson comes in a large 4# format, is made of raw cows' milk and bathed in a brine solution. The wheels have developed a strong, mammalian odor mixed with hay and barn stall. Mini Grayson on the other hand is a wee little thing coming in at about 1# per wheel. The other big factor in this cheese is that it is washed in beer from Highland Brewing Company.

So how does a beer wash and a smaller wheel change the flavor and texture profile of the cheese? Since both cheeses are made from raw milk they have to be aged for 60 days before they can be sold to the public. In the smaller wheel, this means that the cheese is ripening a bit faster, and when we get it in the stores it's not just creamier than the regular sized Grayson, but has developed more of its flavor by the time it reaches us.

While Mini Grayson definitely brings the funk to a party, it's milder than her big cousin. Now, part of that is because it's wintertime, and the cows have a different diet going on, so you're not getting those big grassy, sunshiny flavor components that can be found in summer and autumn wheels. What it does have is a nice yeastiness that comes through, and some flavors of hay, licorice, hops and a very faint browned butter aroma. Quite yummy and a must for spreading on toasted bread.

So which one is my favorite? I'm sticking with the original, preferably the wheels that we get in the late summer. Those wheels might not be as creamy in texture as those made with winter milk, but the depth of flavor and stinkiness is right up my alley.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Widmer's Cheddar

I can cross one thing off of my resolution list. Right here and now I declare that orange cheese is no longer the devil. Yes, milk isn't orange, and there's a part of me that still doesn't get the orange Cheddar thing found so much in the Midwest, but I have found a tasty tasty cheese that has proven to me once and for all that orange Cheddar can be, and in fact is tasty.

This miracle cheese came to me courtesy of Widmer's Cheese Cellars in Wisconsin.

Joe and his family have been making cheese for 80 years. He has also gone through the Wisconsin-only Master Cheesemaker class, coming out of it not just a Master Cheesemaker of Brick Cheese but also of Colby-both cheeses with origins in Wisconsin.

His cheeses are delicious, but that's not what we're here for. We're here because his 8 yr. Cheddar has blown my cheesy little mind.

If you told me a year ago that an orange dyed Cheddar that was pasteurized and aged in plastic would be one of my faves I would probably respond by kicking you in the shins, or maybe by forcing you to eat generic processed cheese slices until you begged for mercy. I would have been wrong, and I apologize for doing those hypothetical things to you.

I love this cheese so much. It's tangysharpsaltysweetmilkycrystals of crumblyfudginess are fantastic. How does he do it? How does he turn years of my "cheese shouldn't be orange" stubbornness into "Schnicklefracks! This is some dang good cheese!"

All I can say is that this man (and everyone who works at the cheese plant) have got some serious cheesemaking, Cheddar-crafting skills.

Kudos Joe, you've made a believer out of me!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Resolve to Eat More Cheese

It's a new year which usually means making a resolution, keeping it for a few weeks, breaking it and then feeling bad about yourself for not having the willpower to continue going to the gym. In the grand tradition of my family I've decided to make resolutions I know I'll be able to keep.

  1. 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.
  2. I will accept orange Cheddar (I'm already halfway there)
  3. I will cook more cheese-centric recipes.
  4. 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.
  5. I will visit cheesemakers outside of Vermont. (Maybe Maine?)
  6. I will never watch Sex and the City part 2 ever again. My eyes, ears and soul are still recovering.
  7. 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.
  8. Fondue.
  9. I will finally clean out the fridge.
  10. Battlestar Galactica is awesome!
Okay, so number 10 isn't really a resolution, but seriously, it's so good. Just thinking about watching another episode right now has got me thinking that maybe I should stop writing and just take 45 minutes off. So tempting. All I have to do is press "play". Fine. I'll continue with the post.

Hopefully you all had a fantastic holiday season and are having a great start to the new year! I spent the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister in-law and wicked beastie. For dessert we had a traditional-ish cheese plate.

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.

Kunik is a triple cream cheese made with goat milk and Jersey cow cream. It's also one of my favorite triple creams.

Founded in 1990 Nettle Meadow Farm primarily raises goats, although they have some sheep, some guard llamas (don't mess with a llama they will frack you up real good) and a rescue sanctuary filled with older goats, horses, and other farm animals.

When you first open the wrapping of the cheese you get notes of grass, herbs, pepper and mushrooms. The paste ripens from the outside in which means you get a nice creamy layer of cheese right under the rind and a more dense middle. On their website they call this cheese buttery, and while I agree I would like to add some more descriptors. This cheese is mushroomy, acidic, slightly salty, silky and is a bit like raw broccoli on the rind. A fantastic cheese good for a holiday, special occasion, or really any day that ends in the letter 'Y'.

Our final cheese on the plate is Ardrahan. Oh man, I really want to talk about this cheese with you right now. The problem is that talking about Ardrahan is more complex than just mentioning a cheese and what it tastes like. If I talk about Ardrahan I have to talk about Irish farmstead cheeses. If I talk about Irish famstead cheeses I have to tell you about how the industry had all but disappeared, and the people who helped bring it back, and how I want to go to Ireland and how washed rind cheeses are particulary delicious and it becomes it's own post all together.

For now I'm going to stop here and start working on the Irish farmstead cheeses post* in which I'll hopefully be able to do justice to lush green land, hard work, beaurocracy and deliciousness that all comes together to make some of the most delicious cheese on earth.

If you manage to see any Irish washed rind cheese at your local cheese counter or shop in the next few days, buy it, then when you read the upcoming post you'll have first-hand experience on the tastiness of Ireland.

*Truth is, I'm going to take a break just for 45 minutes to watch an episode of Battlestar Gallactica. Dang it! I just can't lie to you guys.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rush Creek: Tasty Cheese or Dirty Sin?

It's hard to talk about Rush Creek without also talking about Winnimere and Mont d'Or (AKA Vacherin Du Hauts-Doubs) and maybe even Forsterkase as well. I'll do my best to tackle all of them today.

Every fall customers call on the phone to ask one very important question:

"Do you have Vacherin Mont d'Or?"

Every year I give the same answer:

"Unfortunately, sir/ma'am, we don't carry raw milk Vacherin."

I loathe having to give any customer a "no" and so after hanging up with the customer I go into the back of the shop and weep salty tears.

*shakes fist at the ceiling*
"Why isn't there an American made artisan cheese that has the silky, naughty texture of Vacherin Mont d'Or but is more accessible to me and my customers?!"

Finally this year there is a very good representation of the custardy cheese from France (and Switzerland).

Her name is Rush Creek and she's my precious.

To the uninitiated Rush Creek might look a lot like one of my favorite seasonal Vermont cheeses, Winnimere. Lets compare and contrast.

The following are my notes from a side-by-side tasting conducted with both cheesemakers when they came to Chicago in early November.

WINNIMERE: A raw cow milk cheese, belted in spruce bark, washed in beer and seasonally made from autumnal and winter milk*. It weighs about one pound per wheel. Wheels are creamy, though not runny, and have aromas and flavors of smoked bacon, toasted nuts, cured meat and savory flan.

RUSH CREEK: A raw cow milk cheese, belted in spruce bark, brine wash and seasonally made from autumnal and winter milk. It weighs about 3/4 of a pound per wheel. Wheels are uber creamy, runny and gooey like a ready-to-eat fondue. Flavors and aromas of smoky bacon, campfires, custard, sweet milk and a bit wheaty. Perfect for a 9 1/2 Weeks movie re-enactment.

So what is the cheese commonly known as Vacherin Mont d'Or all about and why do people go crazy for it? Although we usually attribute this cheese to France, truth is due to the location of the mountain that the cheese is named for both France and Switzerland make a version of this cheese. The raw milk French cheese is also called Vacherin Du Hauts-Doubs or just Mont d'Or while the pasteurized cheese of Switzerland is usually called Vacherin Mont d'Or.

The cheese is made seasonally. According to AOC regulations set in the 1980's, can only be made from September through early May. She's belted in bark and is a creamy dreamy fondue-esque cheese that people go just gaga for. Or so I've heard. Although I've has pasteurized versions of the cheese I've never had raw milk Vacherin before.

Before Rush Creek came onto the scene people would compare Winnimere to Mont d'Or, but to me it's always been a bit more like the Swiss cheese Forsterkase. Creamy yet solid paste, woodsy aroma, a bit baconish.

For this year, Mateo has changed the consistency of the Winnimere somewhat. It's not as creamy as in previous years. The cheese also looks darker than in previous years, and doesn't have the right funkatude to it. I usually wait for the wheels that arrive in March when I think the funky aromas and creamy mouth feel are at their peak.

No matter which cheese you manage to find in the cheese case, they're all delicious. We're in the best part of the year, WASHED RIND SEASON! Nom nom nom.

*autumn and winter milk has a higher butterfat content and the structure of the milk makes it especially good for making washed rind cheese like Winni, Rush Creek, Forsterkase and Vacherin.

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

Thanksgiving Day Cheese

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.

  1. 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.
  2. It's made of raw milk
  3. It is super uber soft and creamy almost like ready-to-eat fondue
  4. It's belted in bark
  5. Andy Hatch and his wife are nifty
  6. It's a seasonal cheese (come March nary a round shall be found)
  7. 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
  8. Nom nom nom
Okay, so not completely without emotion, I can't help it, Andy and his wife (Mike, Carol and everyone associated with the farm and creamery) are super nice. Why does that matter to you? Here's my "logic".

People who are nice to people are also often nice to animals
Happy animals give you better quality product
Better milk = better cheese
Better cheese = happy people
Happy people are usually nice.
Nice people are nice to people
People who are nice to people are also often nice to animals

And that is my totally sciencey way of explaining why this cheese is so frickin good.

But wait! There's more! At the risk of making this my longest post ever and boring the stuffing out of you (that joke would've killed on Thanksgiving) I'm going to tell you more about Rush Creek in another post this week. There will also be a pooorly constructed video on how to remove the top rind. The video will also have unfortunate music to accompany it.

*Yes, they're vegan. Normally I would shun those who don't eat fromage, but they trust me and the cheeses I bring over and so cheese is the one exception in their otherwise vegan world.

**Matt & Clare are super awesome and their preserves are delicious. They make seasonal nummies, are very creative with new flavors (gala apple and sparkling wine is one of their newest), are wicked nice, bust their butts in their tiny workspace and are primed to be the next big thing in jam.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Raw Milk Cheese Isn't Scary

Over the past few weeks months the cheese world has been going through some shit. There have been cheese recalls due to e.coli and listeria. The government has been "protecting the public" by appearing to go after small cheesemakers, shutting them down and condemning their cheeses. The "E.Coli lawyer" is suing Costco and Bravo Farms because a family got sick from tainted cheese. There are a lot of rumors, questions and fears about raw milk cheese and if it is safe.

*I am NOT medical doctor. I'm simply giving you some information. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any concerns about anything you eat.*

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 ( 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.

Hopefully the article I've shared with you all will help you in making educated decisions at the cheese counter.