Join us on Saturday, April 16
Want to start a spirited discussion among cheesemakers and cheesemongers? Bring up raw milk vs. pasteurized cheese. No doubt that there are some delicious pasteurized cheeses. But to really capture the taste of a place and the milk that made it, raw milk cheese wins every day.
Which brings us to one of our favorite “holidays” of the year –Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day, which this year is being celebrated on April 16.
Created by the Oldways Cheese Coalition, of which we are members, this worldwide holiday offers cheese enthusiasts from Denver to Paris to Manhattan a chance to participate in events celebrating the distinctiveness and cultural heritage of raw milk cheese.
Cheese+Provisions is honored to host one of a handful of flagship events for the Oldways Cheese Coalition. We’ll be celebrating with a raw milk cheese bar featuring delicious American artisan raw milk cheeses and one of the classic French raw milk cheeses, Comte.
So why should you care about raw milk cheese? Here are just a few reasons.
Unpasteurized milk retains the natural bacteria local to the place where the cheese is made that can create deeper and more complex flavors. With raw milk cheese, you taste the breed, the pasture the animals grazed – mountains, hills, valleys, plains – and the season, young spring grass, rich summer grass. In other words, you get a taste of place and time.
Pasteurizing strips a lot of those complex flavors out and effectively creates “dead milk.” To rebuild flavor in pasteurized cheeses, cheesemakers must re-introduce bacteria through the form of starter cultures. These are pre-selected strains of bacteria made in a laboratory and available in powder form.
But that means cheesemakers across the country are using the same selected bacteria and potentially producing cheeses lacking character and diversity; cheeses that are identical from Japan to Australia to Sweden.
In fact, one of the reasons that cheesemakers starting using pasteurized milk was to create cheese that was more consistent in texture and flavor regardless of the time of year or what milk went into the mix. To create volume, large cheesemakers started combining milk from many herds into a single batch.
By comparison, a raw-milk cheese is alive and constantly changing as it matures.
Andy Kehler, the herdsman at Jasper Hill Cellars in Vermont explained it best in an interview with CheeseRank.com: “Raw milk is what makes our products unique. Looking into the future, how do we keep our cheeses unique as more and more competitors come onto the marketplace? It’s our milk – our native microbiology and the microbiome on our farm that natively produce flavor. That’s something to preserve and celebrate, and something that’s destroyed during pasteurization.”
A common misunderstanding is that raw milk cheese is unsafe. But the reality is far more complicated.
The problem with pasteurization is that it kills all the bacteria naturally present in milk. But that means while killing the potentially harmful pathogens, it also kills the good bacteria that not only add to flavor, but also often out compete the bad bacteria, thereby limiting or killing bad bugs.
Some of these bad bugs can survive pasteurization, and when they do there are no good bacteria to knock them out. That’s why if you look at cheese recalls, there are as many if not more pasteurized cheeses on the list of recalled cheeses as raw milk cheeses.
In fact, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), most raw milk cheeses causing illness have, historically, been illegally-made fresh cheeses. In the U.S., raw milk cheese must age at least 60 days before it can be sold.
Traditionally, cheese was always made with raw milk. It’s only in the last century that cheesemakers started pasteurizing the milk. In fact, the reason cheese was “invented” was as a way to preserve raw milk before refrigeration.
Want some more reasons to feel good about raw milk cheese? Here you go:
- Raw milk cheese is a natural source of healthy probiotics.
- The beneficial bacteria in raw milk cheese can contribute to a strong immune system and may help improve allergies.
- Raw milk cheese, made from the milk of grass-fed animals, is a source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is believed to be beneficial for heart and vascular health and may help maintain lean body mass.
- Raw milk cheese is naturally a good source of protein, calcium, and healthy fats.
- The special type of fat found in raw milk cheese, in addition to the balanced composition of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, may be protective against heart disease.
- Raw milk cheese, made from grass-fed cows, is a source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
- The unique type of saturated fat found in raw milk cheese may help protect against Type 2 diabetes.
Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day is a celebration of traditional cheese and the artisans who bring it to life from the pasture to the plate. Raw milk cheeses are truly the old ways, and are traditional foods that deserve attention.
Join us on Saturday, April 18 for your opportunity to learn more and taste some of our favorite Raw Milk Cheeses. Oh, and all Raw Milk Cheeses are 10% off that day here at Cheese+Provisions!