Celebrate Raw Milk Cheese!

rawWhile we appreciate all cheese, those made from raw milk hold a very special place in our heart. While we won’t make the argument that one is better than the other, we will say that the tradition and heritage of unpasteurized cheese is near and dear to our hearts. Having a whole day devoted to celebrating these traditions is important, not just because it helps expose the public to raw cheeses, it also helps to preserve and elevate the presence of cheese made from unpasteurized milk.

So, what is the deal with raw milk cheese? Let’s start with a brief history of cheese itself. Long before refrigeration, the need to preserve liquid dairy was a necessity. It ensured that nothing went to waste, and there would be food available during the times of year (winter) when it was not possible to yield crops. Cheese making is essentially caloric preservation. By removing some of the liquid from milk, condensing it, and through various aging techniques, we were essentially able to control the spoilage of liquid dairy, allowing the final product (cheese) to be consumed with little fear to human health.

What’s the deal with pasteurization?

As agriculture became increasingly more industrialized and centralized, there was an increase in foodborne pathogens. This created a huge risk top human health, and because products like cheese were shifting from farm production to factory production, there was a need to ensure that the final product was homogeneous and fit for human health. Essentially, when we pool liquid dairy from a bunch of different farms into a central processing facility, there is a much greater risk for contamination than just processing the milk on farm. Pasteurization was applied to cheese and liquid dairy (named after the French scientist Louis Pasteur.) This process essentially raises the temperature and keeps it there long enough to kill anything that might be harmful.

So, what’s wrong with pasteurization?

Well, this question is tricky. The short answer? Nothing! Pasteurization is good in the sense that it keeps the milk and cheese that we buy at the grocery store from getting us sick. However, when talking about small cheese makers, pasteurization can be quite harmful for a number of reasons. First, we have been making and consuming these cheeses for hundreds of years, with incredibly scant amounts of sickness. In many foreign countries, these traditions are protected, and certain cheeses MUST use raw milk. In the US, there is a move to increase the limitations and regulations on these cheeses, which would result in the loss of many of our favorite old world favorites from making it to the states. The second issue that many argue that raw milk is an expression of the farm. This milk contains a microbiological community that is unique to the farm on which it is made. By killing these microbes with pasteurization, we are essentially killing the elements that make these cheeses special.

So, now that you know a little more about raw milk, make sure to visit your local cheesemonger and celebrate Raw Milk Appreciation Day with us!

5 Cheeses that Love Champagne

moet-70566_640It’s that time of year again! Break out the bubbles, chocolate hearts, and turn up the romance. Here are some of our favorite cheese and Champagne pairings you will totally fall in love with.

Love at Mast assortment_love_at_mast_2015

We get very young wheels of Champlain Valley Triple Creme and add Mast Brother’s chocolate both inside and out before it grows its fluffy white rind. We’ve been developing and aging these guys for several years now (check out the video of how we make them here) and with the help of the Mast Brother’s, we’ve developed a cheese you can really toast to!

Cremont – Vermont Creamery

This tangy and sweet mixed-milk cheese is one of the most luscious little buttons out there. Made in Vermont by one of our all-time favorite cheesemakers, these wheels are crafted with love. While primarily made of goat’s milk, the addition of a touch of cream makes this cheese so creamy, the effervescence of Champagne is the perfect pairing.

Moses Sleeper – Jasper Hill

Yolky, slightly mushroomy and unbelievably spreadable, this Vermont Bloomy Rind is ready to be slathered all over some crusty bread, and begs to be enjoyed with something bubbly. If you’re not so big on Champagne, or just in the mood to change things up, hard cider is also a mind-blowing pairing.

Hudson Flower

00000008828_cavemaster-hudson-flowerThis cheese starts its life as Kinderhook Creek, but when we are finished with it, the transformation is hard to miss. Rolled in local herbs and hops flowers, these sheep milk wheels are then aged in our Natural Rind cave for several weeks. The end result is a deeply herbaceous flavor bomb is elevated with a crisp, citrusy bubbly.

Humboldt Fog – Cyprus Grove 

California sparkling wine has meet its match with this go-to Cali goat’s milk cheese. Humboldt Fog has become synonymous with artisan American cheesemaking, and is at the top of the list for cheese aficionados and novices alike! Uncork some bubbles to bring out this cheese’s minerality.

How Stinky Cheeses Get Their Funk

greenswardWe aren’t afraid to say it: we love the stinky stuff. The stinkier the better! But, how does a cheese get it’s funk? Well Matt Spiegler from Cheese Notes, one of the best cheese blogs out there, gives us the run-down on how these stinkers are made in this month’s Edible Brooklyn.

Matt brings up one of the most important factors in making a stinky cheese, the washing of the curd in booze. This is what gives this family of cheese its name — Washed Rind. Wheels of cheese are washed in many different styles of alcohol, ranging from beer and wine, to even absinthe and cider. While this does not necessarily impart the flavor profile of the booze, it does have some interesting effects on the rind of a cheese. It introduces a new set of bacteria and yeasts. As Matt explains:

The best known are the Brevibacterium linens, which impart red and orange hues and distinctive aromas — meaty, wet grass, broth, barnyard, even “gym sock” — to prized washed-rind cheeses like nose-searing Époisses or funky, custardy Taleggio. But not all washed rind cheeses are “stinky”; some range toward fruity, floral, pleasantly sour and yeasty; others might not even read as “washed” at first taste, so subtle is the influence.

Matt calls out some of his all-time favorite American washed rinds, and Murray’s was lucky enough to get a shout-out for our Cavemaster Reserve Greensward (pictured above)! This cheese starts its life as Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm, but comes to us very young, where we bathe it in booze and develop its orange rind. Matt describes Greensward as “rich, milky and meaty, with bacon and caramelized onion notes and a distinctly woodsy infusion from its time in the bark belt.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The Real Deal with Nacho Cheeze

DCIM100MEDIAWe’ve all been there, standing in line at a Yankee’s game, shelling out $36 for 3.5 ounces of beer, when hunger pangs strike. You look around and assess your options. Emulsified pork-in-a-tube that’s been wading in tepid water since the summer of  `87. No thanks, I’ll pass.

Then it hits you: nachos! Boom, everything is good again. Your mouth waters as the concession stand worker pumps that sweet, sweet yellow nectar all over the tortilla chips. (If I could create a GIF of those magical 13 seconds, and have it eternally loop in my head, I would happily trade away my first born.)

But there’s that nagging question, the one we do everything we can to avoid: “Is that stuff REALLY cheese?” As quick is the thought appears, it’s deflected and stored in that special little corner of our brain that houses all of our poor food choice decisions. But the truth is, that nacho sauce that’s pumped out of a tub, or the stuff that comes spewing out of aerosol cans is cheese in the same sense that margarine is butter.

The mythological story (courtesy of Bloomberg) of nachos is a fellow down in Mexico named Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya needed to feed some American tourists. He reached for a wheel of Wisconsin cheddar, grated it on top of some tortillas, and plopped on some jalapenos. Today, many of the commercial available nacho cheese dips, spreads, and  goos might be flavored with cheddar, but contain such lovely emulsifying, hydrogenating, and stabilizing ingredients like modified tapioca starch, maltodextrin, and sodium stearoyl (YUM!). And while the FDA has many classifications of cheese manufactured in the United States, “nacho” seems to be left off the list. This means that nacho cheese can really be whatever you want it to be, and food companies can slap the word “nacho” on any old cheese flavored product they feel like. It’s marketing, y’all!

So now, approaching Super Bowl Sunday, we’re offering a recipe (adapted from The Foodie Affair) for some high-brow nachos for game day. Because while the goopy yellow “cheeze” has a soft spot in our hearts, we’re real cheese people, thankyouverymuch.

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add onion and sauté until fragrant and soft. Add garlic and blend into onions.
  2. Add flour to the onion mixture, stirring for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is thick. Add milk and begin adding cheese one cup at a time. Stir until melted and warm (approximately 5 minutes).